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MONTEREY CA 93943-5101 

Monterey, California 


HERZEGOVINA, 1987-1997 


Darko Spajic 
December 1998 

Thesis Advisor: 
Second Reader: 

Daniel J. Moran 
Paul N. Stockton 

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1. AGENCY USE ONLY (Leave blank) 


December 1998 


Master's Thesis 



Darko Spajic 


Naval Postgraduate School 
Monterey, CA 93943-5000 





The views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department 

of Defense or the U.S. Government. 

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13. ABSTRACT (maximum 200 words) 

The purpose of this thesis is to identify and explain the causes of instability in Muslim-Croat relations in the period 
between 1990-1997. These two nations are supposed to be the main pillars of the new Bosnian state born in Dayton, Ohio 
on November 21, 1995. So far, the Serbs have eschewed all efforts of the International Community in the direction of the 
stronger integration of a Bosnian state, and there are no signs of possible improvement in the future. If the project of a 
Muslim-Croat Federation fails, the whole state is at stake. Muslim leadership, along with many historians and political 
analysts hold the Croats responsible for the deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations, but a number of important 
developments do not fit this assumption. The author will argue that although the Muslims and the Croats did not create their 
alliance in the Bosnian war in good faith, the main cause of deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations is the wavering policy of 
the international community toward the Yugoslav crisis. 


Muslim-Croat Relations, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, Yugoslavia, 
War, Bosniacs, Muslims, Croats, Serbs, diplomacy, ethnic conflicts, ethnic relations 













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Prescribed by ANSI Std. 239-18 


Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited 


Darko Spajic 

Captain, Croatian Army 

B.S., University of Zagreb, Croatia, 1990 

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the 
requirements for the degree of 


from the 

December 1998 



The purpose of this thesis is to identify and explain the causes of 
instability in Muslim-Croat relations in the period between 1990-1997. These two 
nations are supposed to be the main pillars of the new Bosnian state born in 
Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995. So far, the Serbs have eschewed all 
efforts of the International Community in the direction of the stronger integration 
of a Bosnian state, and there are no signs of possible improvement in the future. 
If the project of a Muslim-Croat Federation fails, the whole state is at stake. 
Muslim leadership, along with many historians and political analysts hold the 
Croats responsible for the deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations, but a number 
of important developments do not fit this assumption. 

The author will argue that although the Muslims and the Croats did not 
create their alliance in the Bosnian war in good faith, the main cause of 
deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations is the wavering policy of the international 
community toward the Yugoslav crisis. 



















B. THE WAR 65 



V. MUSLIM-CROAT WAR 1993-1 994 77 

















Since the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the implementation of 
the Dayton Agreement, representatives of the International Community have 
been facing the problem of poor Muslim-Croat relations. These two nations are 
supposed to be the main pillars of the new Bosnian state born in Dayton, Ohio on 
November 21, 1995. They showed the political will to overcome disagreements 
and create a common territorial entity - the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina - 
which was the core of the present state Bosnia-Herzegovina established in 

So far, the Serbs have eschewed all efforts of the International Community 
in the direction of the stronger integration of a Bosnian state, and there are no 
signs of possible improvement in the future. So, if the project of a Muslim-Croat 
Federation fails, the whole state is at stake. 

This thesis examines different stages of Muslim-Croat relations, from the 
culmination of the political crisis in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, to 
the beginning of implementation of the Dayton agreement in 1996. These 
relations were always dynamic and they had been changing in accordance with 
wider political circumstances but they never erupted into open military conflict 
until 1993. 

Muslim leadership, and many political analysts, hold the leadership of 
Croatia responsible for the deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations. They explain 
events by pointing to an assumed Serb-Croat carve-up of Bosnia to achieve a 
Greater Croatia and a Greater Serbia. Serbs and Croats are supposed to have 


plotted against Muslims, and agreed to divide Bosnia and Herzegovina so that 
the result of the war was known even before the war started. But, a number of 
important developments do not fit this assumption, such as: 

• There was a war between the Serbs and Croats in which about 20,000 
people died, more than 200,000 were wounded and more than 300,000 were 
displaced on both sides. 

• The Republic of Croatia was the very first country that recognized 
Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state. 

• The Republic of Croatia hosted more than 350,000 Bosnian Muslim 
refugees who, according to the alleged Serb-Croat agreement, were supposed to 
be enemies. 

• The Republic of Croatia and Bosnian Croats actively supported the 
establishment of a Muslim-dominated Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and supplied 
weapons in spite of the international arms embargo. 

• Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed a formal military alliance in 
1992 and reconfirmed it in 1995. 

• The heaviest fighting broke out first in Central Bosnia, where Bosnian 
Croat enclaves were encircled by Muslim dominated areas. 

• Croats alone liberated the city of Mostar from Serbs, and later helped in 
establishing Muslim dominated Army units of Bosnia-Herzegovina in that city. 

• During the Muslim-Croat war, Bosnian Croats did not conquer any part 
of the predominately Muslim ethnic territory. Quite the contrary, they lost the 
predominately Croat city of Vares. 

This thesis examined the terrible consequences for Muslim-Croat relations 
of a wavering policy on the part of the International Community toward the 
Yugoslav crisis. Even a superficial look at the involvement of the International 
Community in the Yugoslav (Bosnian) crisis will reveal its imprudent 

The sides in the Yugoslav crisis sometimes received the same messages 
from the European Union and the United States, but mostly the messages were 
completely different. Such chaotic diplomacy prolonged the war and affected 
Muslim-Croat relations in the worst possible way. The big share of responsibility 
for the Muslim-Croat war lays on the international community and its inconsistent 

The introduction of Containment policy was one of the lowest points of the 
international diplomacy during the Yugoslav crisis. It showed that the policy of 
the international community toward the Yugoslav crisis was only a set of half- 
hearted and inconsistent decisions. 




I would like to acknowledge the invaluable assistance from my thesis 
advisor Professor Dan Moran for his timely suggestions and many corrections he 
had to make. Thanks also to Professor Paul Stockton who is my second reader. 

I owe much gratitude to my aunt Marcella Pesorda who corrected all my 
grammar mistakes and made this thesis to satisfy academic standards. 

Special thanks to my parents Ivan and Andja who devoted their lives to 
education of their children and encouraged us to never stop. 

Last but not least, thanks to my wife Blazenka, and our boys Ivan and Filip 
who gave me inspiration and strength to finish this thesis in spite the all obstacles 
I faced in the last five months. 




Since the end of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the implementation 
of the Dayton Agreement, representatives of the international community have 
been facing the problem of poor Muslim-Croat relations. These two nations are 
supposed to be the main pillars of the new Bosnian state born at Wright- 
Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio on November 21, 1995. It can also be 
said that the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina is primarily the result of a 
common decision of Muslims and Bosnian Croats during the referendum on 
independence in February/March 1992, followed by common resistance against 
Serbian aggression during the early stage of the war that ensued. These two 
nations showed the political will to overcome disagreements and create a 
common territorial entity - the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina - which was the 
core of the present state Bosnia-Herzegovina established in Dayton. 

In the long run, the strongest threat to the existence of the independent 
state of Bosnia-Herzegovina is not Serbian separatism, but political and military 
conflict between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats. 

Presently, the independent state of Bosnia-Herzegovina can effectively 
exist as long as at least two of its three major nations want to live together within 
internationally recognized state borders. So far, the Serbs have eschewed all 
efforts of the international community in the direction of the stronger integration 
of a Bosnian state, and there are no signs of possible improvement in the future. 
That is why good Muslim-Croat relations are the key to the existence of an 


integral Bosnian state. If the project of a Muslim-Croat Federation fails, the 
whole state is at stake. 

This thesis will examine different stages of Muslim-Croat relations, from 
the culmination of the political crisis in the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, 
to the beginning of implementation of the Dayton agreement in 1996. This was 
the most turbulent period in the history of the relations between these two 
peoples since the emergence of modern nationalities in the 19th century. These 
relations were always dynamic and they had been changing in accordance with 
wider political circumstances but they never erupted into open military conflict 
until 1993. 

From the middle of the 19th century until independence, the Bosnian 
people lived in five different states, which to some extent corresponded to five 
different but also relatively stable stages of Muslim-Croat relations: The Ottoman 
Empire (1463-1876), the Austro-Hungarian (1878-1918), the Kingdom of 
Yugoslavia (1918-1941), the Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945), and the 
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945-1992). Interestingly, after 
independence, the quality of Muslim-Croat relations changed several times 
within a couple of years - from delighted cooperation in 1991 , to open warfare in 
1993 - and then to the "marriage of convenience" in 1994, which continues to the 

The main tasks of this thesis it to identify and explain the causes of 
instability in Muslim-Croat relations in recent years, especially as compared with 

the previous era of stability. The first step is to determine what internal and 
external factors had a major impact on Muslim-Croat relations. Secondly, it is 
necessary to determine the attitude of Muslims and Croats toward other major 
players in the Bosnian crisis, a factor that was often ignored. Third, the relations 
between Muslims and Croats must be reviewed in the broader context of the 
Yugoslav crisis because the major players were almost the same on both the 
Yugoslav and Bosnian levels of crisis. 

These major players were: the free elected leadership in Serbia, the free 
elected leadership in Croatia, the leadership of the former Yugoslav Army, the 
free elected leadership of Bosnian Muslims, the free elected leadership of 
Bosnian Serbs, the free elected leadership of Bosnian Croats, and last but not 
least, the international community. These elected leaderships (especially in 
Croatia and Serbia) set the tone for the overall relations among their nations in 
the former Yugoslavia. In Bosnia itself, the intercourse among nations depended 
a lot on local national leaders. The national leaders who shared power within 
central Bosnia had influence, but not overall control over the local national 
leaders in cities and villages throughout Bosnia. This fact has usually been 
neglected in many analyses, but it is very important for understanding the 
strange and sometimes "impossible" alliances that occurred during the war on 
the local level. 

The Serbian leadership and the leadership of the former Yugoslav Army 
were already deeply involved in the Yugoslav constitutional crisis before the first 

free election in 1990 and their position did not change after the elections. The 
Serbian leadership orchestrated the Yugoslav crisis on the top level and in the 
field even before other major players in the Yugoslav and Bosnian crisis 
appeared on the political scene. The former Yugoslav Army was just the 
instrument for the realization of Serbian strategy. There are numerous proven 
instances of how the former Yugoslav Army and the Serbian political leadership 
acted in conjunction toward the same goals. Therefore, they enjoyed a 
significant advantage before the leaders of other Yugoslav republics reacted to 
the crisis a couple of years later. 

The importance of the Muslims' attitude toward the conflict between Serbs 
and Croats in the former Yugoslav state was usually ignored, but among other 
factors, it had a significant impact on the Muslim-Croat relations in Bosnia. The 
Croats resented Muslims doing many (for them) unacceptable things on an 
international and local level such as the application of Bosnia for membership 
into the Organization of Islamic Conference, the application of the country for 
membership in the Organization of non-Allied Countries, the Muslim dominated 
government pledging within the international community for non-recognition of 
the Republic of Croatia as an independent state, then, flirting with the Yugoslav 
Army, then, their ignorant position toward the war the Yugoslav Army waged in 
Croatia and against some Bosnian Croatian villages during that war, and so 
forth. Many former Yugoslav Army officers of Muslim origin took part in the war 
in Croatia and later held high appointments in the Bosnian Army. 

These factors were usually ignored, but created serious doubts among 
Croats (in Croatia and in Bosnia) about possible cooperation with Muslims. The 
ambiguous position of the Muslim leadership toward a thriving Serbian 
nationalism even confused part of the Muslim electoral body who, therefore, 
voted in some cities for Bosnian Croatian national parties. 

Muslim leadership and many historians and political analysts hold the 
leadership of Croatia responsible for the deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations. 
They explain events by pointing to an assumed Serb-Croat carve-up of Bosnia to 
achieve a Greater Croatia and a Greater Serbia. Serbs and Croats are 
supposed to have plotted against Muslims, and agreed to divide Bosnia and 
Herzegovina so that the result of the war was known even before the war started. 

A number of important developments do not fit this assumption, such as: 

• Immediately after the alleged Serb-Croat agreement, a war broke out 
between them, in which about 20,000 people died, more than 200,000 were 
wounded and more than 300,000 were displaced on both sides. 

• The Republic of Croatia was the very first country that recognized 
Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state. 

• When war broke out in Bosnia, the Republic of Croatia hosted more 
than 350,000 Bosnian Muslim refugees who, according to the alleged Serb-Croat 
agreement, were supposed to be enemies. Quite the contrary, Bosnian Croats 
and Bosnian Muslims fought Bosnian Serbs together throughout the whole of 

Bosnia until 1993, and in some areas that alliance continued even after the 
Muslim-Croat war in Central Bosnia broke out. 

• The Republic of Croatia and Bosnian Croats actively supported the 
establishment of a Muslim dominated Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina with weapons 
supplies, in spite of the international arms embargo. Weapons supplies 
continued in some areas, even during the Muslim-Croat war. There was no case 
in history of warfare in which a war party delivered weapons to the side that was 
supposed to be its enemy. It is very hard to believe that this was such case. 

• Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed a formal military alliance in 
which the Croatian Army was allowed to enter Bosnia and support Bosnian Croat 
and Muslim Armies in border areas. 

• If the Muslim-Croat war started because Croatia wanted to grab 
Bosnian territory, why did fighting break out first in Central Bosnia, where 
Bosnian Croat enclaves were encircled by Muslim dominated areas and where 
Bosnian Croats were in a much weaker position than in border areas of the 
Republic of Croatia? 

• If the Muslim-Croat war was a result of a Serb-Croat plot, why didn't the 
Croats hit suddenly and try to overtake the whole city of Mostar first, (which was 
the only metropolis where Croats were a majority of the population until the 

1980s)? In fact, Croats alone 1 liberated the city from Serbs, and later helped in 
establishing Muslim dominated Army units of Bosnia-Herzegovina in that city. 

• During the Muslim-Croat war, Bosnian Croats did not conquer any part 
of the predominately Muslim ethnic territory. Quite the contrary, they had trouble 
defending their own ethnic territory and they lost the predominately Croat city of 

Those who accept the theory of a Serb-Croat conspiracy usually speak of 
30,000 or more soldiers from the Croatian Army (from Croatia proper) who 
supported the Bosnian Croat Army, the Croatian Defense Council (or in the 
Croatian language, Hrvatsko Vijece Obrane - HVO). If so, why did the Croats 
have so much trouble during the Muslim-Croat war? During 1993, the Croatian 
Army successfully carried out two limited actions against the Serbs, who were 
much better equipped and organized than the Muslims. An additional force of 
30,000 would have almost doubled the strength of the Bosnian Croats and would 
have significantly changed the balance of power between the Croats and 

These facts do not fit the theory of a Serb-Croat plot against Muslims, and 
they suggest a different reason for the deterioration of Muslim-Croat relations. 

This thesis will examine the terrible consequences for Muslim-Croat 
relations of a wavering policy on the part of the international community toward 

1 Disproportions! Croatian contributions to the defense of Bosnia in the early stages of war 
caused a lot of tension on local levels, leading to the accusation that the Croats waged a war and 
the Muslim only took care of the politics. 

the Yugoslav crisis. Even a superficial look at the involvement of the 
international community in the Yugoslav (Bosnian) crisis will reveal its imprudent 

The European Union changed its policy toward the crisis in the former 
Yugoslavia several times. In 1991, the European Community tried for the first 
time to practice their Common Foreign and Security Policy and appointed a 
special mediator for the Yugoslav crisis. He tried to find a comprehensive 
solution for the whole of Yugoslavia, and later for Bosnia, but he failed. The 
starting position was not to recognize territorial conquest, but after Serbian 
refusal of this position the Europeans were ready to change their policy in the 
autumn of 1991. 

The German-imposed recognition of Croatia in January 1992 marked a 
change in the EU policy, which meant that the EU again was not ready to accept 
Serbian territorial conquest. In 1992, a standing peace conference for the former 
Yugoslavia, co-chaired by special mediators from the EU and the UN, was 
established in Geneva, Switzerland. The Co-Chairmen, who were chief 
negotiators at the same time, tried to create the peace plan solution which would 
prevent ethnic partition of Bosnia and annul Serbian territorial conquest. But, 
major power players involved in the crisis refused to support that plan and it 

Later, the Europeans changed their policy again and took a more realistic 
approach toward the Bosnian crisis. The results of that new policy were two 


peace plans which assumed ethnic partition and recognized some Serbian 
territorial conquests, but again failed, largely owing to Serbian resistance. 

In 1994, thereafter, the major Europeans powers abandoned the common 
European approach and joined Americans and Russians in a newly formed 
Contact Group. The Contact Group proposed a new plan, but even that plan 

The policy of the United States toward the Yugoslav crisis was 
inconsistent, as well. At the beginning of the Yugoslav crisis, the Bush 
administration had no wish to be involved in this crisis and ceded the problem to 
the Europeans. The United States' policy generally supported political steps 
undertaken by the European Union and the United Nations, but carefully avoided 
getting involved in any practical way. 

When the Clinton administration came to power, the situation turned 
upside-down. President Clinton did not want to act unilaterally to fulfill the policy 
announced in the election process - "lift and strike" - but he publicly promised to 
support the implementation of any peace plan that would be accepted by all 
warring sides. He also appointed a special envoy for the Yugoslav peace 
process, who joined the Europeans. The Clinton administration also demanded 
a much tougher course toward the Serbs, but refused to be engaged in the 
peace making process. It made no effort to persuade Bosnian Serbs and 
Muslims to accept, what was probably the best peace plan obtainable - the 

Vance-Owen Plan of 1993. When the situation on the field deteriorated 
thereafter, the Clinton administration responded with new a "containment" policy. 

The Clinton administration made things even more complicated. It 
supported the Muslim leadership in refusing any plan rewarding Serbian 
aggression. But, at the same time, it did not want to support the Muslim-Croat 
alliance with concrete means (lifting the arms embargo and air-strikes), because 
it would mean confrontation with its NATO allies, who were ready to accept the 
Serbian territorial conquest. 

When President Clinton appointed a special mediator for former 
Yugoslavia, the Russians responded in the same way. Russian and American 
special envoys partially acted as observers in the peace process led by EU/UN 
mediators, but sometimes worked on parallel tracks. One of the results of 
American work on a parallel track was the so-called Muslim-Croat Federation, 
which stopped the Muslim-Croat war but definitely confirmed partition of the 

Finally in 1995, the United States took advantage of changed 
circumstances in the battle field and, with "stick and carrot" policy toward all 
sides, found the solution that was accepted as the minimum of basic 
requirements of all warring sides. 

This thesis will show how the relations between Muslims and Croats 
changed with every shift in the policy of the international community and how the 
inability of the international community to prevent and punish Serbian aggression 


resulted in these terrible consequences. This definitely convinced Bosnian 
Muslims and Croats that an independent Bosnia was stillborn and they started 
fighting for territory. 

After the war, the Muslim-Croat relations came to a new stage. Both 
sides agreed to build a common political entity, the Federation of Bosnia- 
Herzegovina, but their supposed cooperation bore a heavy burden from the 
previous war. On the other hand, both sides interpreted this agreement 
according to their pre-war political attitudes, which required frequent American 
arbitration. Many prewar problems between Muslim and Bosnian Croats 
remained unsolved. The political positions of the main Muslim and Croatian 
political parties did not change a lot. The Croats are seeking more autonomy 
from Sarajevo, while Muslims want a more centralized organization. Unlike 
politicians, Muslim and Croat soldiers achieved significant results in building the 
joint armed forces, which now gives some hope for the future. In spite of all 
these problems, full implementation of the Washington and Dayton Agreement 
remains the only possible framework for Muslim-Croat cooperation and the 
building of the state of Bosnia. 





It is very hard to speak about Muslim-Croat relations before the19 ,h 
century in terms of relationships between modern nations. Although, all Bosnian 
medieval kings and the majority of the population were of Croatian descent 2 and 
Roman Catholic religion in the medieval period, it is possible to speak with some 
certainty only about relations between religions that existed during that time in 
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Muslims in Bosnia were not able to establish a separate 
national identity before the Austrian occupation in 1878, which broke their 
connections with Istanbul. 

The Ottoman Empire conquered Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1463 rather 
quickly. The Hungarian-Croatian kings fought for control over Western Bosnia 
during the next fifty years, until the battle in Mohacs fields in 1527, when the last 
Hungarian king, King Bela was killed. Finally, the Ottoman Empire took control 
over Bosnia, much of Croatia and a significant part of Hungary. The horrors of 
war forced the indigenous population to emigrate and new authorities invited 
different Slavic and non-Slavic tribes (Serbs, Vlachs, or Moralchs) from other 
parts of the Ottoman Empire to populate these empty regions. 

2 "We can say that the majority of the Bosnian territory was occupied by Croats - or at least, by 
Slavs under Croat rule -in the seventh century; but that is tribal level which has little or no meaning 
five centuries later." Noel Malcolm, Bosnia, A Shot History (New York: New York University 
Press, 1994), p.12. 


The Ottoman Turks were generally more tolerant toward the Orthodox 
Christians, whose religion was one of the official religions in the Empire, than to 
Roman Catholics who were identified with the Austrians - the main Turkish 
enemy. Early - modern Bosnian History was accordingly marked with major wars 
against Austria fought every two to three decades. After Eugene of Savoy 
burned Sarajevo to the ground in 1697, the majority of Bosnian Catholics fled 
before the Ottoman Turks retaliated. Those who remained were exposed to 
terrible retaliation and many of them converted to Islam in order to evade the 
terror. Also, in the areas where Catholics were intermixed with Orthodox 
Christians, the Roman Catholic population was exposed to double taxation - from 
the Ottoman rulers and from the Orthodox Church, what definitely sped up their 
converting to the other two religions. Only the extreme sacrifice of Bosnian 
Franciscans prevented the total assimilation of the Catholic population. In the 
latter part of the 17 th or maybe the early 18 th century, the Orthodox population 
probably became the majority in Bosnia. 

In the early 1830s, there was a strong Pan-Slavic movement throughout 
Europe, which later evolved into national movements among the different Slavic 
nations. This national movement among the Croats started as the "lllyric 
Movement," which imagined all South Slavs to be descendants of an ancient 


Illyrian 3 people. The followers of this movement called for the unification of the 
old South Slavs into one big South Slavic state. 

The Muslim nobility did not like these ideas about unification of South 
Slavs, because Muslims would have been the minority in any such state. Above 
all, the nobility was afraid of losing the benefits they enjoyed in the Ottoman 
Empire. The revolutionary and national movements in other parts of Europe did 
not affect the Muslim population of the lower classes. After all, there were much 
more serious events in Bosnia and neighboring Serbia - insurgencies and rising 
Serbian nationalism. 

The Serbian national movement appeared in Serbia and partially in 
Bosnia and Croatia (wherever the Serbian population lived) in the early 19 1h 
century. In contrast to the lllyric movement, the Serbian movement considered 
all South Slavs to be Serbs, with different religions. The ultimate goal of this 
movement was to unify "all Serbs," regardless of religion, in one Serbian 
Kingdom. Serbian nationalism found support in Russia and, in the first half of 
the 19 th century, circumstances began to move toward open hostility between 
Muslims and Orthodox people. Relations between Muslims and Catholics were 
distant but without open hostility. 

3 Actually Albanians are direct descendants of old lllyrians. 



Austrian occupation of Bosnia was part of the deal made at the Berlin 
Congress (1878), by which the big powers tried to avoid the creation of one big 
Balkan Slavic state influenced by Russia. Bulgaria, Serbia, and Monte Negro got 
full independence. Although Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina with 
Turkish consent, part of the Muslim nobility in Bosnia refused this take-over and 
tried to prevent it through an armed struggle. These struggles and the 
uncertainty of the future were the main reasons why a significant part of the 
Muslim population (Muslim Slavs and Turks) emigrated to other parts of the 
Ottoman Empire. Struggle stopped as soon as it became clear that the new 
authorities would not change the old social structure of Bosnian society, and the 
Muslim nobility would keep almost all the benefits they enjoyed in the Ottoman 
Empire. Muslims officially accepted the Austrian annexation of Bosnia in 1910, 
when the first Bosnian Parliament was created. The first Bosnian Muslim 
political party was created in 1906. Bosnian Croatian and Bosnian Serbian 
parties were created two years later, but their representatives sat in Budapest 
until 1910. 

The national structure of Bosnia changed in the first years after the 
occupation in 1878. For the first time in a couple of hundred years, the numbers 
of Croats (Catholics) increased, while numbers of Muslims was significantly 
decreased. The Orthodox population decreased slightly, but after the emigration 
of the Muslims, the Serbs (Orthodox) definitely became a majority of the Bosnian 


population. Austrian occupation induced the formation of a Bosnian Muslim 
nationality. The problem with national identification of Bosnian Muslims was that 
they did not have an independent state in history (like Serbs and Croats) with 
which they could identify. Medieval Bosnia was a Christian state, and Bosnia in 
which they lived was just a province of another sovereign state. The broken 
connection with Turkey and the need for balancing between Croats and Serbs 
created a sufficient condition for formation of a new Bosnian Muslim nation. 


The negotiation about unification of all South Slavs in one state started 
even before the end of World War I. The Yugoslav Committee, which consisted 
of exiled South Slavic politicians from Austria-Hungary, negotiated conditions for 
unification with the chief of the Serbian government, Nikola Pasic. These 
negotiations were held on the Greek island of Corfu in 1917, where the Serbian 
government spent most of the war in exile. Committee was surprised with the 
toughness of the Serbian position, but after Western pressure on the Serbs, 
together they finally created the general framework for the unification of South 
Slavs better known as the Corfu Declaration. At first, Serbs saw the unification 
of all South Slavs as the realization of all their nationalistic and showed little 
understanding of the demands of the Yugoslav Committee for an equal position 
for all the nations in that state. Croatian delegates were especially sensitive to 
issues of equality because Croatia, at least on paper, kept some kind of 


autonomy in both the Hungarian-Croatian, and Austro-Hungarian states. But, 
idealistic dreams about brotherhood and unity of all South Slavs prevailed, and 
all problems were swept under the carpet in order to realize a more important 
goal - unification. 

South Slavic politicians who remained in Austria-Hungary did not have a 
clear idea of what to do after the war. Some of them joined the Yugoslav 
Committee in exile, while the others were examining all other options such as, 
the creation of a joint South Slavic entity within Austria-Hungary, the creation of 
independent states, and unification with Serbia. 

Bosnian Muslims were divided. Some of them preferred autonomy for 
Bosnia within the Hungarian state, while the others wanted an independent state. 
Bosnian Croats and Croats in Croatia itself were also divided between groups, 
those that wanted an independent state and those that wanted unification with 
Serbia. A similar situation existed in Slovenia. At the end of October 1918, the 
National Assembly, which consisted of delegates from Croatia, Slovenia, and 
Bosnia-Herzegovina, met in Zagreb, Croatia and established the country of 
Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs (SHS). But, with Italian occupation of the western 
parts of Slovenia and Croatia, public opinion in these lands shifted toward 
unification with Serbia, in the hope that the Serbian military might protect 
territories on the west. So, the country of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs got 
unified with The Kingdom of Serbia on December 1, 1918. The new Kingdom of 


Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was established without any guarantees about the 
status of non-Serbian nations and lands. 

The worst Croatian and Slovenian nightmares were realized. The Serbian 
government showed no intention of confronting Italy. With the help of Muslim 
delegates, a centralist state structure was imposed. Bosnian Muslims, organized 
in Yugoslav Muslim Organization (JMO) and led by Mehmed Spaho voted for a 
centralist constitution in 1920, in return for a less radical agricultural reform, and 
in some way for the preservation of territorial-administrative borders of Bosnia 4 . 
Disappointed with the centralist constitution, Croatian delegates left the 
Assembly in Belgrade. Croats were also disappointed with the Muslims' position 
of sacrificing a more serious systematic goal, the internal organization of the 
whole state, for some minor benefits. Spaho cooperated in several unstable 
governments, acting somewhere between anti-centrist Croats and centrist Serbs. 

During the next years, tension between Belgrade and Zagreb continued to 
grow and a crisis culminated in 1928, when a Serbian delegate killed the leader 
of the main Croatian Peasant Party (HSS), Stjepan Radic, and four other 
Croatian delegates in the Belgrade Assembly. For the most radical Croats from 
the Croatian Party of the Right (HSP), led by Ante Pavelic, that was a clear sign 
that a political agreement with the Serbs was not possible. They then emigrated 
to Italy and established the Ustasha (uprising) movement. They would return to 

4 Bosnia kept its old administrative division in six territorial units and outline of Bosnia was 
preserved, what did not happen with Croatia and Slovenia. 


Croatia with German troops in 1941 and establish a German dominated 
Independent State of Croatia. 

After the Radio assassination, there were numerous riots throughout 
Croatia. King Aleksandar took advantage of the political chaos, and imposed a 
dictatorship in January 1929 that continued until his death in 1934. He renamed 
the country Yugoslavia and reorganized her into nine "banovinas" (districts) 
which had nothing to do with the historical borders of the South Slavic regions. 
Bosnia was divided into four "banovinas" and Muslims became the minority in 
each of them, because they covered some parts of neighboring Serbia, Croatia, 
and Monte Negro. In 1930, Reis ul-ulema (a Muslim religious leader) was 
transferred from Sarajevo to Belgrade by the King's decree, which additionally 
disappointed Bosnian Muslims. 

These and other similar political steps turned Muslims' public opinion 
toward a stronger cooperation with Croats. Again Spaho decided to cooperate 
with Slovenes and one faction of Serbs, led by Stojadinovic, in the new Yugoslav 
government formed after the king's death. The participants in this government 
formally signed a unification pact between their parties, but Stojadinovic was 
ousted by his own party and found himself in the strange position of ruling the 
country without the support of the main Serbian and Croatian parties. 

Realizing that there would be no stability in a country without a 
fundamental political settlement between Serbs and Croats, the Regent Pavel, 
who formally ruled Yugoslavia after Aleksandar's death, induced negotiations 


between the main political Serbian and Croatian parties. In 1939, Vlatko Macek, 
the new leader of the strongest Croatian party HSS and Dragisa Cvetkovic, the 
leader of the strongest Serbian party signed an agreement between Serbs and 
Croats which ensured Croatian autonomy within Yugoslavia. 

Muslims were deeply disappointed with this agreement in which some 
parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina with a Croatian majority were included in newly 
formed "Banovina Croatia." Spaho died during the negotiations, and his 
successor Djafer Kulenovic called for the establishment of a special "Banovina" 
for Bosnia. But, the Serbs considered the rest of Bosnia to be their asset and 
showed no intention of making any concessions to Bosnia. 

The political position of Muslims during the inter-war period was rather 
complex. The majority of Muslims were inclined toward better cooperation with 
Croats, and some of them were disappointed with Spaho's political maneuvering. 
The most pro-Croat Muslim politician, Hakia Hadjic, set up the Muslim branch of 
the Croatian Peasant Party, but he only got a handful of Muslim votes. Mehmed 

Spaho's brother Fehim, who was Reis ul-ulema and declared himself a Croat, 5 
had a leading role in the pro-Croat Muslim cultural association. Yet he was 
adamant about preserving a separate Muslim identity and issued an order 
against mixed marriages. 

During the inter-war period, the Bosnian Muslims had been passing 
through the process of transformation from a religious to a national community. 


The majority of them thought that Bosnia should preserve a separate identity in 
the Yugoslav state, even in the areas where the Serbs and Croats were a clear 
majority. This political goal survived World War II and later was embodied in the 
Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina within Tito's Yugoslav Federation. 


The Kingdom of Yugoslavia capitulated after only twelve days of 
resistance to German, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops. Even before the military 
operations were completed, under German patronage, Independent State of 
Croatia (NDH) was proclaimed. That country consisted of Bosnia, and most of 
continental Croatia. The Croatian coast became part of the Italian Empire. That 
"independent" country was officially divided into German and Italian zones of 
influence, and the line of division was drawn diagonally from the Northwest to the 
Southeast. The political leadership of NDH consisted of emigrants, mostly 
members of the Croatian Party of the Right (HSP), who went abroad after 
Stjepan Radio's assassination in 1928. They assumed that a political agreement 
with the Serbs was not possible. Because of German domination, the NDH 
imposed some anti-Jewish racial laws, but its primary concern was the vast 
Serbian minority in the central parts of Croatia and Bosnia. Muslims were 
guaranteed all rights, and were generally considered Croats of Islamic origin. 
Some prominent prewar pro-Croatian Muslim politicians were co-opted into the 

5 Noel Malcolm, Bosnia, A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 1994), p. 185. 


government. This was supposed to ensure Muslim popular support to the new 

Serbs were soon driven to opposition of NDH and started an armed 
struggle against the Ustasha troops. Mutual retaliation and counter retaliation 
created a crime-spiral, which could hardly be stopped. The Serbian military 
resistance was based on the old Serbian Chetnik (trooper) tradition of guerilla 
warfare used during World War I. The most active were Chetniks in Bosnia, not 

so much against the Germans and Italians, 6 but against the Croats. Those in 
Serbia lay low and waited for the uprising, which would eventually come when 

the Allies turned the war against the Germans. 7 

While atrocities committed by Croats against the Serbs, and those 
committed by Serbs against Croats could be explained, the Chetniks' crimes 
against Bosnian Muslims are not understandable. Although Bosnian Muslims did 
not like the position of Bosnia within the NDH (they had been seeking for 

autonomy), after these crimes, 8 many of them joined either the Ustasha 
organization or the special SS German-organized units. Later, those Muslims 
also took part in crimes committed against the Serbs. 

6 Actually, Chetniks openly collaborated with Italians in Bosnia from the beginning of the war, and 
with Germans from 1943. 

7 Noel Malcolm, Bosnia, A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 1994), p. 177. 

8 Chetniks killed several thousand Muslims in period 1941-1942 in regions of Bileca, Foca, 
Gorazde, and Visegrad. 


Josip Broz Tito led the Communist resistance in a loose alliance with the 
Chetniks in the early stages of war. Very soon, the Germans pushed him out of 

Serbia to Bosnia, where he stayed throughout the rest of the war. 9 In Bosnia, his 
predominately Serbian troops merged with the Croatian Partisans (from the 
coast), that were fighting against Italian occupation. Tito's ideologists created 
slogans about equality, brotherhood, and the unity of all Yugoslav nations. This 
attracted people of all nationalities to his units. But, the strength of his units was 
usually overestimated and the Germans initiated all serious armed clashes 
against Germans. Tito's main concern was the possibility of an Allied landing in 
the Balkans, which might have prevented him from taking over power after the 
war. After the Soviet liberation/occupation of Belgrade in 1944, his position was 

The position of three Bosnian nations in World War II was rather different. 
A minority of Bosnian Croats joined the Ustasha organization, but many of them 
welcomed the establishment of a Croat dominant state. Later, some of them 
even joined the Tito's Partisan resistance. 

The majority of Bosnian Serbs joined the Chetnik movement in the 
beginning of the war, and later when Tito came into Bosnia some transferred to 
the Partisan troops. With the approaching end of war, the Serbs massively 
transferred from the Chetniks to the Partisan movement. 

9 Even, "Chetnik" leader, former Colonel of royal Yugoslav Army moved in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 
where he had much stronger base. From early 1942 until the Soviet Third Ukrainian Army troops 
came into Serbia in October 1944, there were no armed struggles in Serbia at all. 


The position of the Bosnian Muslims was rather complicated. In the 
prewar period they were more inclined toward Croats, but they were not satisfied 
with the territorial organization of the NDH, which did not ensure special status 
for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Such vague relations with Croats created a significant 
diversity in the Muslim armed resistance. Some of them joined the Ustasha 
troops; others participated in the self-organized "Muslim Volunteer Legion" 
which fought more against the Partisans than against Chetniks. They also tried 
to cooperate directly with the Germans. Some Muslims joined the German SS 
troops called the Handjar Division. In the Zenica region, almost incredibly, 

Muslims led by Dr Ismet Popovac created the joint Muslim-Chetnik groups. 10 
Finally, the fifth group of Muslims joined the Partisan movement, when they 
became more politically and militarily distinguishable from the Chetniks. After 
the end of World War II many Muslims accepted the idea of living in communist 
Yugoslavia, which unlike the Ustasha and Chetnik solutions, offered a federal 
state structure in which Bosnia-Herzegovina continued to exist as a separate 


The events during World War II, which in the case of the former 
Yugoslavia were the mixture of civil wars and struggles for independence, largely 
determined the role and the relations among Yugoslav nations during the post- 

10 Noel Malcolm, Bosnia, A Short History (New York: New York University Press, 1994), p.188. 


war period. The Partisan resistance was a small-scale movement 11 throughout 
the war, and the majority of the Yugoslav population was not involved in any kind 
of resistance. But at the end of the war, a massive transfer of Chetniks to the 
Partisans simultaneously enlarged Tito's political base and ensured the Serbian 
dominance during the postwar period. The Majority of war veterans were 
absorbed into the ranks of the Communist Party, and under Tito's patronage they 
had been tailoring the destiny of Yugoslavia until 1990. 

Croats were in a difficult position because the majority of them lived for 
four years in the NDH. By default, their loyalty to a new regime was 
questionable if they had not taken part in the active Partisan resistance. Even 
Croatian veterans were not in a much better position. They started with the 
resistance in June 1941 without waiting for an official order from the Communist 
Party's Central Committee in Belgrade and Tito never forgave them that 
disobedience. 12 In 1948, the most influential leader of the Croatian Communists, 
Andrija Hebrang, was prosecuted in one of Tito's show-trials and later died under 
unexplained circumstances in Belgrade's prison. 

Bosnian Croats were in an even worse position than Croats in Croatia 
itself, because their participation in the Partisan movement was rather small. 
They favored the Ustasha movement and they probably were the predominant 
element of that organization. Their over-representation in the Ustasha 
movement is easy to explain. With Bosnian absorption in the NDH, Bosnian 

1 1 Partisans tied down only four low-caliber German Divisions instead of twelve, which was 
officially proclaimed. Ibid. p. 182. 

12 Croatian Communists began active resistance on June 22, 1941 and Tito's Central Committee 
in Belgrade made the decision on resistance on July 4, 1945. 


Croats would have benefited the most. All other options, either an independent 
Bosnia, or the annexation by Serbia, would have put them in a minority position. 

The Croatian people would have borne the brunt of the creation of the 
NDH for a long time after the World War II. In Tito's time, they were tenants in 
their own Socialist Republic of Croatia, because Croatian Serbs held most of the 
ruling, administrative, and police posts. Croatian contributions to the Federal 
budget were not followed with a proportional number of Croatian representatives 
in the Federal administration and in the Federal Army. This unacceptable 
situation caused a lot of frustrations. These frustrations broke out in the early 
1970s during the movement known as the "Croatian Spring." Tito purged the 
leaders of the movement, but he also changed the Yugoslav constitution toward 
further decentralization. The "Croatian Spring" in 1971, and the armed 
insurgency started by one extreme emigrant Croatian group in 1972, confirmed 
the Serbian propaganda that Croats were destructive and that deep inside they 
never forgot the NDH. Later, every Croatian political step was judged with 
Ustasha in mind. 

Needless to say, Croats in Bosnia suffered even more. Their reputation 
was so bad 13 that they could hardly get any job in a state agency or the 
government. 14 Discrimination fueled frustration and anger, and caused heavy 

13 How bad the Croatian reputation was, can be seen from an interesting comparison of two Noel 
sentences. "In the Yugoslav Parliament of 1924, all the Muslim deputies identified themselves as 
Croats, except for Spaho himself." In contrast, "[a]n analysis of Party functionaries with Muslim 
names in 1956 Yugoslav 'Who is Who' shows that 17 per cent declared themselves as Croats and 
62 per cent as Serbs." Noel Malcolm, Bosnia, A Short History (New York: New York University 
Press, 1994), pp.165-166 and p.197). 

14 In 1971 , the Croats comprised more than 20 per cent of the Bosnian population, but it was 
hardly possible to find a Croat holding any important official position. Ibid., p.203. 


emigration of Bosnian Croats to Republic of Croatia and Western countries after 
World War II. These frustrations would explode in strong nationalistic feelings 
during the first free elections in 1990 and Croats would vote for parties with 
strong Croatian national tendencies. 

With the creation of a separate Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 
Yugoslav Federation, the old dreams of Bosnian Muslims almost came true. 
Although until the 1960s, Muslims were not recognized as a separate nation, a 
separate Bosnian Republic ensured their survival as a separate ethnic group. 
They were not assimilated by either the Serb or the Croats. Post-war political 
events in the world and in Yugoslavia played an important role in their furthering 
their national affirmation. Tito's connections with the Islamic countries in the 
Non-Allied Movement, and the general change of internal policies from integral 
Yugoslavisms toward decentralization, 15 enabled the strengthening of the 
separate national identity of Bosnian Muslims. Bosnian Communists of Muslim 
origin pushed for their recognition as one of the full-fledged Yugoslav nations in 
1960 and they wanted their identity to be recognized, not as a religious but as a 
national one. At the same time, there was a revival of religious beliefs embodied 
in Alija Izetbegovic's Islamic Declaration, where he argued that Muslims should 
not abandon the spiritual values of Islam in exchange for western materialistic 
values. In the 1970s, Bosnian Muslims went to study at Arab universities, and in 
1977, a Faculty of Islamic Theology was established at the Sarajevo University. 
The Olympic Winter Games held in 1984 significantly contributed to the 
urbanization of Sarajevo, and the further promotion of a special Bosnian identity. 

15 This was possible after the dismissal of Aleksandar Rankovic, who was Tito's chief of Security 
Service and the strongest promoter of Yugoslav centralism. 


However, the Bosnian Communists carefully watched all attempts to connect the 
Muslim religion to the Muslim nation. In the late 1970s, Communist authorities, 
estimating that the revival of Islam in Bosnian went too far, drew from the 
archives an old accusation against the Muslim clergy for cooperating with the 
Germans and Ustashas. In 1983, a group of religious Muslims was sent to 
prison, accused of doing "hostile and counterrevolutionary acts derived from 
Muslim nationalism." The leader of the group was Alija Izetbegovic. 

Bosnian Communists of Muslim origin became the predominant factor 
within local Bosnian authority in the late 1960s, and they made significant efforts 
in building a separate Bosnian identity. With the decentralization of Yugoslavia 
their job was much easier and they were supported by a small number of Croats 
in the Bosnian Central Committee, such are Branko Mikulic and Hrvoje Istuk, 
who were trying to avoid a complete Serbian domination over the Bosnian 
Communist Party. Being short of cadres, the Bosnian Croats often ceded their 
slots in the high party and state's posts to Bosnian Muslims. After some time, 
Muslims took that practice for granted without paying attention to the interests of 
Bosnian Croats. During the reign of the Communist dictatorship, such policy was 
possible, but after the first free elections, the situation changed dramatically. 
The Croats became political factors in Bosnia. Suddenly, it became obvious that 
Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims have different political interest, besides 
prevention Serbian domination in Bosnia-Herzegovina. 




With the first rumors about Tito's serious illness in 1980, foreign observers 
predicted the dissolution of Yugoslavia along republican and ethnic borders 
immediately after Tito's death. They usually pointed above all to Croatian 
nationalism and separatism, driven under the surface after 1971, and they did 
not expect that the final Yugoslav crisis could start in any another place. 

The Serbo-Albanian conflict suddenly broke out in Kosovo in 1982 was 
thus a considerable surprise. Kosovo and Vojvodina were two autonomous 
provinces within Serbia, and in 1974 these provinces got the right of 
representation on the Federal level. Serbian nationalists were dissatisfied with 
the status of Kosovo and Vojvodina even before 1974. Until the dismissal of 
Rankovic, who ruled in Serbia with an iron fist, their control over Kosovo was 
guaranteed. In the 1970s, the situation in Kosovo was normalized, and ethnic 
Albanians enjoyed a significant level of cultural and political autonomy. Ethnic 
Albanians had been the clear majority in Kosovo since the 1960s, and in the 
early 1980s their nationalists considered that Kosovo should get the status of a 
republic within the Yugoslav Federation. Since 1982 Kosovo has been under a 
permanent police and military occupation. The International community accused 
Yugoslavia of violating the human rights of the Albanian population in Kosovo, 
but mad no move to intervene. 


Albanian unrest in Kosovo only fueled the dissatisfaction of Serbian 
nationalists, who became louder in expressing their views after Tito's death. In 
the mid 1980s, Serbian nationalism vigorously revived. A number of books and 
articles 16 were published expressing the discontent with the position of the 
Republic of Serbia in Federal Yugoslavia, and sometimes they expressed open 
contempt toward other Yugoslav nations, not just toward Albanians. They 
expressed discontent with the "subordinate position" of Serbia within Yugoslavia, 
and in general for them, other Yugoslav republics exploited Serbia. 17 

In 1986, leading Serbian intellectuals drafted the notorious 
"Memorandum" of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts. 18 In it, they 
protested "the poor" position of Serbia within Yugoslavia, and raised the 
"question of the integrity of Serb people and their culture in the whole of 
Yugoslavia." They stated that integration could be achieved either by a strong 
centralization, as in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, or by the creation of an 
independent Serbian state that would comprise all parts of Yugoslavia where the 

16 I am referring to journals such as Duga, Nin, etc and the fiercely anti-Muslim novel Noz ("The 
Knife"), written by Vuk Draskovic. Dobrica Cosic wrote a novel in 1985 glorifying the Chetnik 
movement and so forth. 

17 Actually, the Serbs benefited the most in comparison with other Yugoslav nations. The largest 
portion of the federal budget was spent for their benefit, because the Serbs were over represented 
in all federal institutions. The Serbs were 36% of the total of Yugoslav population (census 1991) 
but in they were in military 68%, diplomacy 55%, in federal administration 90%, and so forth. 

18 Memorandum Srpske Akademije Nauka i Umetnosti, < > 
[Access October 21, 1998] 


Serbs lived. Both ways lead to confrontation with other Yugoslav nations, and 
the Serbs started preparations for that conflict. 

In 1986, the Yugoslav Army crated a new plan for the defense of the 
country called RAM. 19 It assumed that NATO would invade Yugoslavia with an 
incredible number of 15 air-born operations on Croatian coast. The line of 
Defense that was supposed to be established after the NATO attack, looked 
surprisingly like the borders of a Greater Serbia. The Army barracks in that area 
were reinforced and additionally equipped. In addition, the Yugoslav Army 
carried out a territorial reorganization. The Belgrade Military District "swallowed" 
the former military districts of Nis and Sarajevo and a large part of the Zagreb 
Military District. The new Belgrade Military District, together with two thirds of the 
Sea Sector of Split, looked like the imagined borders of a Greater Serbia, but at 
that time pointing out such a coincidence would have been considered "science 


Simultaneously with Gorbachev's Perestroyka, the European Community 
undertook further steps toward expansionism and more importantly for 
Yugoslavia, regional integration. The European Community even gave the 
opportunity to regions from communist countries to participate in its regional 
projects. The western Yugoslav republics of Slovenia and Croatia took a chance 

19 For an in depth explanation see issues of the journal Hrvatski vojnik (Croatian Soldier) in June, 
July, and August 1997. 


and joined the Alpe-Adria project, which aimed to strengthen cultural and 
economic cooperation among Alpine and Adriatic countries. New winds from the 
West and from the East (perestroyka) induced the process of liberalization in 
western parts of Yugoslavia. At the same time, Yugoslavia headed toward a 
deep economic crisis. The Slovenian and Croatian public realized that the only 
way to overcome the crisis was the democratization of Yugoslavia and its 
integration into the European Community. Public opinion was transferred to the 
Slovenian and Croatian Communists who unofficially were proposing 
constitutional changes in Yugoslavia in order to converge on the west. 

The Serbs also wanted constitutional changes, but in a different direction. 
In 1987, Slobodan Milosevic came to power in Serbia and very soon he 
embarked on the policy of Serbian nationalism, realizing that nationalism was a 
powerful tool for the manipulation of the Serbian masses. In the beginning, his 
main supporters were Serbs from Kosovo, but very soon nationalism spread all 
over Serbia and other parts of Yugoslavia with predominantly Serbian 
population. In late 1988, and early 1989 Milosevic ousted the elected leaders of 
Vojvodina and Monte Negro installing his own supporters. The leaders of the 
Albanian Communists were suspended and then prosecuted at a show-trial 
reminiscent of Stalin's days. In March 1989, the Serbian Assembly abolished the 
political autonomy of Vojvodina and Kosovo, clearly breaking the Federal 
constitution, but Milosevic was smart enough to keep newly appointed (not 
elected) representatives of these provinces in all Federal institutions. These 


steps ensured his dominance in the Yugoslav Federation. Communists from 
other republics were shocked, but their policy until early 1989 can only be 
described as appeasement. 

After the abolition of Kosovo's autonomy, ethnic Albanians went on a 
general strike. Milosevic responded with strong repression. After some time, the 
leaders of Slovenia and Croatia refused to contribute to the units of the Federal 
Police, because developments in Serbia and Kosovo represented a policy that 
was in total opposition to prevailing liberal (western) ideas. 20 The Serbs 
perceived this withdrawal of Slovenes and Croats from Kosovo as treason. 

Until that moment, the Milosevic-controlled media used to attack only 
Slovenian Communists, but after that moment they turned on Croatian 
Communists and Croats in general. Croatian Communists kept a rather low 
profile in the bitter Serbo-Slovenian quarrels and they did not respond to the 
occasional Serbian "shootings" over Croatia. But new Croatian leadership 
answered Milosevic's attack. That provoked a reaction out of Croatian Serbs, 
who held their first mass meeting in support of Milosevic in Knin, which would 
later be known as a center of the self-styled Serbian Krajina. 

Bosnian Communists, who were known as hard-liners and the guardians 
of Tito's cult, kept low in these conflicts and tried to lessen the growing tensions 
between Serbia and the western republics. During this time they were largely 
preoccupied by internal problems. Their most influential cadres were stuck in a 


large scandal connected with the issuing of promissory notes at high interest 
rates without any backing. The conflict damaged the credibility of two of the 
most influential families in Bosnia, Pozderac and Dizdarevic, who were ousted by 
younger cadres. But, the younger Communists were not able to control the 
processes of national segregation that already had started in Bosnia. 

Although Yugoslavia was decentralized, all the Yugoslav republics except 
Serbia were strongly centralized. This was a typical Communist model of ruling, 
which assumed interference in all aspects of life. This policy went hand in hand 
with the wishes of the Muslim population in Bosnia, who wanted to 
preserve/create a "special" Bosnian national identity. But, Bosnia was culturally 
and ethnically diverse and each region had specific differences. So, it was totally 
incorrect to prescribe the same rule of behavior for every corner of such a 
diverse country. For instance, all Bosnian children studied one year of the 
Cyrillic alphabet, and another the Latin alphabet, regardless of how many Serbs, 
Croats, or Muslims lived in certain region. 21 Even if the Serbs comprised 99 per 
cent of the population in some districts, they had to learn the Latin alphabet 
every second year. A similar situation existed with the Muslims and Croats. 
They had to learn the Cyrillic alphabet every second year even if they comprised 
99 per cent of the population in some districts. Communists were actually 
engaged in a national building process, without paying attention to the fact that 

20 In 1989, the leader of Croatian Communists, Stanko Stojcevic, a Croatian Serb, was replaced 
by the more liberal Ivica Racan. 


the Bosnian Orthodox and Catholic populations had passed through a nation- 
building process one hundred and fifty years earlier. It was not possible to 
reverse that process. 

The beginning of Serb-Croat quarrels horrified the Muslims, who realized 
that it might mean the end of a unified and unitary Bosnia, in which they were 
able to preserve their separate Muslim identity. Muslims were afraid of the 
possibility that if Bosnia were absorbed either by Serbia or by Croatia, they would 
become just a religious group once more. They had every reason to try to avoid 
a war, because they were the smallest and the weakest national group. In 1989 
Milosevic had already made the decision about war, and the mistake of the 
Muslim's leadership was that they did not recognize it. 


In the summer of 1989, Serbs celebrated the 600 th anniversary of the 
Kosovo battle against the Ottoman Turks, and Milosevic gave a notorious 
speech in which he announced the war. He finished the process of subjecting 
Yugoslavia to his control. Out of eight votes in the Federal presidency, he 
controlled four. 

Slovenia did not waste time in protecting herself and she passed a new 
liberal constitution by which laws of the republic took precedence over Federal 
laws. Croatian Communists were careful not to take any provocative steps in 

21 The Croatian language is written in Latin script exclusively, while the Serbs use Cyrillic script. 


that direction, because of the Serbian minority in Croatia, but unofficially, they 
did not try to stop liberalization. Very soon, Slovenian and Croatian public life 
was enriched by new alternative movements and at the end of 1989, the first 
independent political parties appeared. 22 

Slovenian and Croatian Communists made a last reconciliatory effort at 
the Party Congress in January 1990, but when the Slovenian Communists 
walked out, it became clear that Yugoslavia was falling apart. Milosevic tried to 
persuade delegates from other republics to continue the Congress without the 
Slovenians but the Croatian Communists refused. Admiral Simic, a Croat from 
Bosnia and the Chief of the Communist Organization in the Yugoslav Army, 
made a very significant decision. He suggested a recess to enable further 
consultation. But this temporary break became the final meeting of the Yugoslav 
Communist Party. 

Even before the Congress, Croatian Communists made the decision to go 
to free parliamentary elections. Slovenians immediately followed the Croatian 
decision and they announced the beginning of an electoral campaign. Elections 
were held in April 1990. Although both, Croatian and Slovenian Communists 
changed their affiliation and got rid of radicals, they lost the elections. Voters 
elected parties that promised to protect them from the growing Serbian 
nationalism, if needed, by secession - The Liberal-National Coalition in Slovenia 

22 Most of the new political parties were established illegally, because the Croatian parliament 
passed the necessary laws in the spring of 1990. 


and the popular national party called Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica (Croatian 
Democratic Union) or HDZ in Croatia. The Croatian Serbs were organized in the 
Serbian Democratic Party (Srpska Demokratska Stranka) - SDS, which got the 
majority of its votes from Croatian Serbs. That party asked for a cultural 
autonomy of Croatian Serbs if Croatia remained in the Yugoslav Federation or 
political autonomy if Croatia seceded. Later, radicals in the party connected with 
Milosevic, started using much tougher rhetoric 23 and demanded the complete 
secession from Croatia and connection with Serbia. They were not bothered 
with the fact that there was not even a territorial link of predominantly Serbian 
populate parts of Croatia with Serbia. The link was established via the Bosnian 
Serbs in 1992. 

In the spring of 1990, the Communist Parties in all Yugoslav republics 
disintegrated. The Communists tried to reorganize themselves and the majority 
decided to become parties of Social-Democratic orientation. A significant 
number also joined other political parties. The Serbian Communist Party 
became the Socialist Party of Serbia, and Bosnian and Croatian Communist 
Parties became the Parties of Democratic Change. 

During the electoral campaign in Croatia and Slovenia, the Chief of the 
Communist Party in the Yugoslav Army, Admiral Simic (a Croat) suddenly died. 
That enabled the Serbian radicals to grab complete control of the Yugoslav 

23 During the electoral meeting in Petrova Gora, Serbs frequently called the new leader of 
Croatian Communist Ivica Racan - Ustasha, in spite of fact that he was born in a Nazi camp in 


Armed Forces. Even before it was known who would win the elections, the 
decision was made to seize the weapons of the Territorial Defense Forces 24 in 
these two republics. Slovenians were faster in seizing their weapons and they 
kept the bigger portion. In Croatia the Army seized everything. This event 
proved that the Army was not just anti-HDZ, but anti-Croatian, because it 
grabbed the weapons before the results of elections were known. 

Free elections in Serbia and Monte Negro were postponed because of the 
relative loss of Milosevic's popularity in the first half on 1990. The situation in 
Bosnia became more complicated. Bosnian Communists decided to go with free 
elections, but they wanted to prevent the creation of national parties, because 
they were afraid that these national parties would destroy Bosnia. Afterwards, 
the Constitutional Court decided in favor of the creation of national parties, and 
in May of 1990 the Party of Democratic Action was registered. This was the first 
national party in Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose leader was recently released 
political prisoner, Alija Izetbegovic. Soon after, the major Serbian and Croatian 
national parties were established and it was "coincidental" that they had the 
same names like the major Croatian and Serbian parties in Croatia - HDZ and 

24 Territorial Defense Forces were under the control of the Yugoslav republics, unlike the Federal 
Army, which was nominally under Federal control. 


In the summer of 1990, Bosnia was in the middle of an electoral 
campaign. The political situation in Bosnia reflected the overall political situation 
in Yugoslavia. 

Serbian nationalists in the SDS spoke about the inequality of the positions 
of Serbs in Bosnia, and about Serbian unity and so forth. Extremists from the 
Serbian Radical Party (SRS) were openly speaking about a Greater Serbia that 
would absorb Bosnia and much of Croatia. 

The Croatian radicals from the Croatian Party of the Right (HSP) openly 
spoke about the union of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, and secession from 
Yugoslavia. They insisted on Muslim-Croat cooperation. The majority party of 
Bosnian Croats - HDZ proclaimed that Bosnian Croats would never accept living 
in a Serb dominated state. 

The largest Muslim national party, the SDA, spoke in general terms about 
the need to preserve a special Bosnian identity, but it was very careful in 
responding to Serbian nationalists that had been tailoring Yugoslavia according 
to their wishes. The rhetoric of Alija Izetbegovic was rather soft and vague as far 
as the Bosnia relations with Serbia and Croatia are concerned. He was very 
careful not to say anything to provoke the Serbs. That was a completely 
inappropriate policy for the Bosnian political situation. A significant number of 
Muslims expected a much tougher course toward open Serbian nationalistic 
aspirations, and to some extent they were disappointed by Izetbegovic's rhetoric. 
Ordinary Muslims wanted a much closer alliance with Croats, and Croatian and 


Muslim flags were seen tied together at electoral meetings. HDZ posters were 
printed with both the Croatian and Muslim symbols and later, a significant 
number of Muslims in the cities of Mostar and Bugojno voted for HDZ. Although 
Croats were the minority in these cities, HDZ won the elections. 

On the whole, however the elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina were just 
another census. The people voted for the major national parties, and these got 
the majority of seats in Parliament. The parties agreed to form a ruling coalition, 
which lasted less than one year. 


The situation in Croatia deteriorated rapidly after the elections. During 
one session, Croatian Serb Radoslav Tanjga named the Croatian Parliament, 
the Ustasha Sabor. 25 The stormy reaction from the Croatian representatives 
was just a good excuse to leave Parliament forever. 

In August 1990, the Chief of Police in Knin refused to recognize the 
authority of the Minister of the Interior in Zagreb, and effectively started an 
armed insurgency. The Minister sent a special police force by helicopter to Knin 
to take over the police station in Knin, but the jet fighters of the Yugoslav Air 
Forces intercepted the helicopters and forced them to return to Zagreb. This 
was the first open interference by the Yugoslav Armed Forces in the Serb-Croat 
conflict on the Serbian side. The number of armed incidents between the 

25 Sabor is the name of the Croatian Parliament, as Seim in Poland or Duma in Russia. 


Croatian and Serbian villages in the districts with a Serbian majority increased 

The new Croatian authorities realized that a disarmed Croatia could not 
fight the Yugoslav Armed Forces. In September of 1990, they probably made 
the decision to buy weapons abroad and to strengthen their police forces. Police 
Forces were the only regular armed forces available for the defense of the 
republic. 26 Simultaneously, contacts with the International community were 
made to determine its reaction to the possibility of Croatian independence. The 
response was a negative one, and authorities changed public rhetoric by no 
longer speaking about a full Croatian independence but about a Yugoslav 
confederation of independent states. Milosevic simply answered that Croatia 
could be independent, but without the territories where Serbs lived. 

The number of incidents in Bosnia was rather small in comparison with 
the electoral campaign in Croatia. Elections were held in December 1990 and 
Bosnia-Herzegovina got its first freely elected Parliament. Macedonia and 
Serbia also held elections, and in December 1990, all Yugoslav republics had 
free elected leaderships. It was their turn to try to find a new constitutional 
solution for Yugoslavia. In January 1991 , they all agreed to try to find a solution 
acceptable for everyone in next six months. Croatia and Slovenia added that if 
the solution were not found, they would declare independence. 

26 Belgrade accused Croatian authorities to of employing only Croats, but the truth was that in 
such a politically tense atmosphere, the Serbs refused to wear the Croatian badges, calling them 
Ustasha badges. 


The tensions between Croatia and the Army were increasing daily and the 
leadership of Croatia was invited to Belgrade to clear up the problems. But, the 
Army Intelligence wanted to publicly compromise the Croatian leadership by 
presenting the findings about weapons being smuggled into Croatia. A deal was 
cut to stop provocative actions on both sides and the army would collect all 
illegally acquired weaponry. 

Now when the Croats were presented in a negative light to the rest of 
Yugoslavia, the Serbs were free to do what they intended. In early spring of 
1991 , they tried to conquer a police station in Pakrac, Western Slavonia, but they 
were forced to retreat. One month later, they tried to conquer a famous resort, 
Plitvice, in Central Croatia, but after a short attack 27 they were forced to retreat 
again. The Army deployed its forces between the Croatian Police and the 
insurgents, but in effect they cooperated with the Serbs by securing their safe 
passage. The number of incidents was increasing rapidly in all areas where a 
significant number of Serbs lived. In early May, the Serbs set up an ambush of 
Croatian Police and killed twelve Policemen in Eastern Slavonia. The army 
played its role in every incident, pretending to be a buffer between the sides, but 
in reality fortifying the Serbian territorial conquest against Croatian villages. 

Political battles were similar to those in the field. The leadership of the 
Yugoslav republics made no progress during six summits held in the first half of 
1990. In the spring, there were three official propositions for a new constitutional 


order of Yugoslavia. Serbia and Monte Negro 28 proposed a more centralized 
state, Croatia and Slovenia proposed a confederacy, while Bosnia and 
Macedonia proposed an "asymmetrical federation," in which Croatia and 
Slovenia would have more independence than other republics. But no one 
wanted to accept anyone else's proposal. Croatia and Slovenia held a 
referendum in which the population could vote for three official proposals and an 
overwhelming majority of the people voted for independence. 

The situation in Serbia deteriorated suddenly when a demonstration 
against Milosevic escalated into street riots. The Serbian opposition protested 
against Milosevic's control over the mass media. The Yugoslav Army wanted to 
take advantage of this situation and almost staged a legal coup. Milosevic 
controlled four votes in the Yugoslav presidency, and only one vote was needed 
for the introduction of "extraordinary circumstances", effectively military 
dictatorship; but the Bosnian Serb, Bogie Bogicevic refused to vote for it, and the 
plan failed. Milosevic responded that Serbia would not obey Federal laws. 
Afterwards, he changed his mind and the Serbian representatives returned to the 
Federal Presidency. 

In June of 1991, according to the Yugoslav constitution, the Serbian 
member of the Yugoslav Presidency, in a leading role, should have been 

27 That was first incident of shooting with fatalities on both sides. 

28 After the "yogurt" revolution in October 1988, Monte Negro became nothing but a Serbian 


replaced by a Croatian representative, but the Serbs refused to do that. A 
Constitutional crisis that started with abolishing the autonomy of Kosovo and 
Vojvodina, reached its climax. That step assured that Croatia and Slovenia 
would carry out their decision from January 1991 and they both declared 
independence 29 from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991. The next day, the war 
between Slovenia and the Yugoslav Army broke out. The International 
community stepped in at that moment. 

The war in Slovenia lasted only ten days. The EU-troika 30 mediated the 
peace formalized in the Briuni Agreement, according to which the Yugoslav Army 
had to withdraw from Slovenia. In return, Croatia and Slovenia froze their 
decisions on independence for a three-month period. The European Community 
committed itself to mediate a solution during that period. On the other side, the 
Yugoslav Army, Croatia and Slovenia promised to refrain from military and other 
provocative actions. 

But, the real war in Croatia just started. In early August 1991, the 
Yugoslav Army reinforced its forces in Croatia and started an open war against 
Croatia. Especially strong attacks were focused on the city of Vukovar in 
Eastern Slavonia, where the Serbs were the minority of the population. This 

29 According to the Yugoslav Constitution of 1974, all republics had the right of self-determination 

30 The Troika consists of the past, present, and future president of EU commission. 


region was a prosperous 31 area separated from Serbia by the Danube River. 
The Army also attacked to the South in the Dubrovnik region, where there were 
no Serbs at all. Maneuvering through Bosnia to encircle Dubrovnik, the Army 
burned several Bosnian Croatian villages, sending a clear message to the 
Bosnian Croats - the enemy was not just the Independent Republic of Croatia 
but Croats in general. 

In September 1991, Croatia established the General Staff of the Croatian 
Armed Forces - HV (Hrvatska Vojska). During September and October 1991, 
the Special Police and Volunteer Forces conquered several of the military 
stockpiles, which enabled additional mobilization. Every conquered stockpile 
meant a few more brigades of the new Croatian Army. By the end of year, the 
Croatian Army had almost 200,000 troops and the Yugoslav Army lost initiative. 
Actually, the Croatian Army liberated the previously occupied areas of its territory 
in Western Slavonia. In November 1991, the Yugoslav Army finished the 
destruction of Vukovar expelling 50,000 civilians to the free Croatian territory. 
That created the pattern of behavior used in the Bosnian war, later know as 
ethnic cleansing. 

In December, the situation calmed down and Croatia and the Yugoslav 
Army signed a peace agreement in Sarajevo on January 3, 1992. Both sides 
agreed to bring the troops of the United Nations on contested Croatian territory. 

31 Oil and fertile agricultural fields. 


On January 15, 1992 the European Community recognized Croatia and Slovenia 
as independent states. 


The severe debates in the free elected Bosnian Parliament started from 
its establishment in December 1990. The government was formed as a coalition 
of major (Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian) parties, but political tensions in other 
parts of Yugoslavia reflected on Bosnia, and the government could hardly pass 
any law through Parliament without severe debates. 

The serious problems started with negotiations between the presidents of 
the Yugoslav republics. Alija Izetbegovic, the new President of the presidency, 
had to represent the view of the Bosnian people during the debates but there 
were three views in Bosnia as to the future of the Yugoslav Federation. 

The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, gradually shifted his rhetoric 
toward radicalism. Bosnian Serbs were not satisfied with the way Izetbegovic 
represented their interests. Their leadership established a close relationship with 
Milosevic and with the officers of the Yugoslav Army in Bosnia in the first half of 
1991 , and that led to radicalization of their demands in Parliament. 

Bosnian Croats were also dissatisfied and rather confused with 
Izetbegovic's balancing between them and the Serbs. Serbian behavior gave 
them enough evidence that the Serbs did not intend to make any compromises 
with anyone and that Bosnia was headed toward war. They took the Muslim- 
Croat alliance for granted, but Izetbegovic refused to formalize that alliance. 


Izetbegovic did not want to take any serious steps that might in any way 
provoke the Serbs. On the other hand he was divided between his two roles, the 
leader of the Bosnian Muslims, and the leader of the republic. Sometimes he 
acted as though he wanted independence for Bosnia, and then rapidly changed 
his position. The political goal of the Bosnian Muslims was undoubtedly to 
preserve Bosnian independence and the unity of the republic, 32 but they could 
not achieve that alone. In February 1991, SDA and HDZ proposed the 
declaration of Bosnian sovereignty, but in March 1991, Izetbegovic pleaded for 
an asymmetrical Yugoslav Federation, in which Bosnia-Herzegovina would keep 
the same position. For Bosnian Croats, it would have been unacceptable if 
Bosnia had had stronger constitutional ties with Serbia, than with Croatia. But, 
Croatia was on her way to independence and for Bosnian Croats that was the 
only possible step. 

Izetbegovic's chronic indecisiveness and strange political steps confused 
them. In July 1991 his decision was for Bosnia-Herzegovina to apply for 
membership in the Organization of Islamic Conference. 33 Croats also did not 
like his ideas on Bosnia as a civil state. This would leave the Croats without 
participation in the power, because they were the smallest national group in 
Bosnia-Herzegovina (17.8 per cent). Bosnian Croats could, to some extent, 

32 On February 27, 1991 Izetbegovic publicly said : " I would sacrifice peace for a sovereign 
Bosnia-Herzegovina, but for that peace in Bosnia I would not sacrifice sovereignty." 

33 An incredible step, in spite of fact that Christians, Serbs and Croats together (50 per cent) are 
the majority in Bosnia. Muslims are the biggest single group (44 per cent). 


understand Izetbegovic's ignorance of the Croatian war, but what they resented 
him the most for was his ignorance of the attacks of the Yugoslav Army on 
Croatian villages in Bosnia. 34 In that moment, Izetbegovic acted not as the 
President of all Bosnians (including Croats), but as the President of Bosnian 
Muslims only. Bosnian Croats realized what could happen in the future to all of 
them, but Muslim leaders refused all their initiatives 35 to undertake any 
precautionary measures to protect the people against Serbian brutality. This 
was probably the moment when Izetbegovic lost his credibility with Bosnian 
Croats. Appeasing the Serbs, he scarified principles in exchange for a little 
temporary safety. 

Izetbegovic's actions were reflective of the divisions among the Bosnian 
Muslims. Some of them were convinced that it would be possible to make an 
agreement with the Serbs although at the time Radovan Karadzic openly 
threatened 36 extermination of Muslim people. That group, led by Minister of the 
Interior, Alija Delimustafic, had already cooperated with the Yugoslav Army. 
Bosnian police secured the lines of logistic support for the Yugoslav Army that 

34 The Yugoslav Army burned down several Bosnian Croat villages in the hinterland of the 
Dubrovnik area, but Izetbegovic avoided condemning it, saying the famous sentence: "This is not 
our war." 

35 Defense Minister Jerko Doko, a Bosnian Croat, proposed to Izetbegovic the mobilization of 
Territorial Defense Units, but he refused that idea. Laura Silber and Alan Little, Yugoslavia: Death 
Of A Nation (TV Books Inc., distributed by Penguin USA, 1996), p.291. 

36 On October 15, 1991 , Karadzic threatened that if the Muslims and Croats had voted for 
Sovereignty of Bosnia, the Muslim population would have disappeared. 


was engaged in Croatia. 37 Later, that Minister of the Interior was dismissed, but 
his actions largely contributed to the estrangement of Muslim-Croat relations. 
The other group of Muslims, out of Izetbegovic's control, tried to make an 
'historical agreement" in August 1991, with Milosevic. According to the Belgrade 
Declaration, Bosnia would remain in Yugoslavia with some guarantees for the 
Muslim minority. But, that was not what Izetbegovic wanted. His goal was an 
independent Bosnia-Herzegovina within Tito's borders, but he did not want to 
openly ask for that, in order not to provoke the Serbs. He wanted someone else 
to make that decision so that Serbs could blame them, not himself. 

On the other hand, Izetbegovic's doubts about Croatian intentions 
became stronger after the rumors about a secret meeting between Tudjman and 
Milosevic in July 1991, at which they allegedly carved-up Bosnia. This meeting 
is usually the main argument for all political analysts of the events in the former 
Yugoslavia who like conspiracy theories. It is probably the main reason for the 
personal aversion of Izetbegovic toward Tudjman. On the other hand, Tudjman 
resented Izetbegovic's indecisiveness and his pleading within the International 
community for non-recognition of Croatia in December 1991, although 

37 According to Aleksandar Vasiljevic, the head of the Yugoslav Army counter-intelligence, "He 
[Delimustafic] agreed to establish joint Bosnian police-Army patrols and checkpoints, on railways 
and roads to control traffic and prevent armed movements by paramilitaries, as well as to provide 
for real Army movements. Especially since the military needed to get through to Knin from Serbia 
and Montenegro to the war there. If they had not gotten through we would never have been able 
to fight. Bosnia was our corridor to Krajina" Laura Silber and Alan Little, Yugoslavia: Death Of A 
Nation (TV Books Inc., distributed by Penguin USA, 1996), p.292. 


Izetbegovic himself asked the International community on November 30, to 
extend the recognition to all Yugoslav republics. 38 

In December 1991, the International community put Izetbegovic's back to 
a wall: recognition was offered to everyone, if the majority of the people wanted 
that. Even before the referendum on independence, the Serbs announced a 
boycott. Actually, in the autumn of 1991, they already prepared for establishing 
their own Republic of Srpska Bosnia and Herzegovina within Bosnia- 
Herzegovina. The Yugoslav Army withdrew from Slovenia and Croatia, and later 
secured the borders of Bosnian Serb republic. It is not clear why Izetbegovic did 
not want to see that. It was so obvious. He did nothing to prepare his own 
people for the war that started in March 1992, which was even before the results 
of referendum were known. 

In the period before the war in Bosnia, Muslim-Croat relations frequently 
changed. This was the consequence of differing political goals they had in mind, 
and the different strategies that were chosen to achieve them. Izetbegovic 
wished for an independent Bosnia, but he did not want to confront the Serbs, 
realizing how weak the Muslim position was. 

The ideal option for Bosnian Croats was a "Great Croatia," which would 
consist of Croatia and Bosnia, but that was an impossible solution which did not 
survive World War II. The other solution, the partitioning of Bosnia, would make 
an unpleasant precedent for Croatia, whose borders were contested too. That 

38 Ibid., p.216. 


was why they were encouraged from Croatia to vote for an independent Bosnia. 
But, in their minds that independent Bosnia could not be Izetbegovic's unitary 
and civil state. They wanted a decentralized state that could ensure preservation 
of a separate Croatian identity. Unfortunately, Croats and Muslims were pushed 
to fight for an independent Bosnia-Herzegovina even before they started talks 
about its future constitutional organization. In effect, they fought for two different 
states - a centralized and decentralized Bosnia and Herzegovina. The 
International community, whose inconsistent policy toward the Yugoslav crisis 
only made things worse, did not recognize that problem. 


Western countries closely followed the development of the constitutional 
crisis in the former Yugoslavia, but primarily focused on the Soviet Union and its 
former allies. The United States and the European Community thought that the 
preservation of Yugoslavia would be the best solution for all Yugoslav nations, 
but they were ready to accept any peaceful solution. In the second half of 1990, 
the West was preoccupied with the crisis in the Gulf, and Yugoslavia was its 
second concern. The free elected leaderships of Croatia and Slovenia (April, 
May 1990) were unanimously discouraged by all western countries in their first 
talks about the possibility of international recognition. 

When the situation in Yugoslavia deteriorated in the summer of 1991, the 
European Community and the United States chose a different approach. The 
European Community offered to give financial aid when the crisis was resolved, 


while the United States cut down its present financial support until the crisis was 

With the end of the Gulf war, American diplomacy had more time for the 
Yugoslav and East European problems. On the eve of the Slovenian and 
Croatian proclamation of independence on Jun 20, 1991, Secretary of State 
James Baker came to Belgrade to express American support of the liberal 
government of Premier Markovic and the unity of the country. The Army clique 
considered that to mean that they had free reign for military intervention in 
Slovenia. They did not pay attention to the warnings from the United States and 
the European Community, that they prefer to see a peaceful dissolution rather 
than a forceful unity. 

When war broke out in Slovenia, the United States condemned the use of 
force, but they limited its actions on active participation in the United Nations 
Security Council and through the activities of the United States Embassy in 

The European Community had just started its Common Foreign and 
Security Policy in accordance with the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty. When 
the Slovenian war broke out, the European Troika was traveling from Zagreb to 
Belgrade (Slovenian airports were blocked off) and finally mediated a truce 
signed on the Croatian Island of Briuni, by which the Yugoslav Army had to 
withdraw from Slovenia to Bosnia and Serbia. The Troika did not even try to 


tackle the more complicated problems in Croatia. Bosnia was not on their mind 
at all. 

As the situation in Croatia deteriorated, the European Community realized 
that the Troika was not an efficient way of dealing with all Yugoslav problems. At 
the end of August, the European Community declared the use of force in 
Yugoslavia illegal, and demanded that Serbia allow EC observers to come into 
Croatia. The EC also set up the arbitration commission of international jurists 
headed by French Lawyer Badinter to judge 39 the issues of succession among 
the republics. They also appointed a special mediator for Yugoslavia, former 
British diplomat Lord Peter Carrington. He quickly realized that Slovenia was not 
the problem at all, and more troubles could be expected in the upcoming days in 
Croatia and Bosnia. Carrington organized the first sessions for the chiefs of the 
Yugoslav republics in The Hag in September of 1991, trying to determine what 
kind of solution could satisfy the minimal of demands of every republic. His first 
problem was that he did not know what kind of mandate he got from the 
European Community. His only guidelines were the decisions of the Badinter 

In October 1991, he proposed the effective confederation of six 
independent Yugoslav republics. Details would be worked out in working groups. 

39 The first decision was that Croatia and Slovenia did not secede, but Yugoslavia fell apart and 
recommended that the Helsinki Charter of non-violation of borders should be applied to the 
borders of Yugoslavia. The population that did not want to stay in some republic should be given 
the option to move somewhere else. That decision turned Serbian public opinion against the 
European Community. 


Special constitutional guarantees were made for minorities in Croatia, and 
Serbia. All three nations in Bosnia-Herzegovina would keep their constituent 
position. Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia accepted his proposal, but Serbia 40 
and Slovenia were not satisfied with this solution. With the Yugoslav Army out of 
country, Slovenia was just a step away from full independence and she would 
accept only minimal ties with other Yugoslav republics. Carrington managed to 
find Slovenia a more flexible solution for her ties with the rest of Yugoslavia, but 
Serbia completely refused his proposal. Serbia was not ready to give such a 
degree of autonomy to Albanians in Kosovo, as she demanded for Serbs in 
Croatia. In the beginning of the session, it seemed that Milosevic, under 
international pressure, agreed to accept the right of self-determination for 
republics, not for the nation as he demanded before, but Milosevic finally showed 
his intentions in the following statement: 

Serbia could not accept the working groups continuing to proceed on the 
basis of the lowest common denominator of identified interests, and 
institutional arrangements. The conference should try to identify genuine 
common interests which could be defended in a common state. It was 
essential for all Serbs to live in one state, not in a number of independent 
republics bound by little more than interstate relations. If this was not 
accepted by the other republics, the right course would be to recognize 
those republics wishing it [independence], after having settled the question 
of the succession of Yugoslavia and after having agreed on border 
changes. 41 

40 Usually, Monte Negro closely followed the Serbian opinion. 

41 Laura Silber and Alan Little, Yugoslavia: Death Of A Nation (TV Books, Inc., distributed by 
Penguin USA, 1996), p.192. 


Actually, Serbia wanted to annex the territories of Croatia and Bosnia, and 
to be the sole legitimate successor of Yugoslav states. The only difference 
between a small Yugoslavia and the Greater Serbia would be in the name. 
Those who did not like that solution would be broken by military means. 

In mid November, international public opinion turned against Serbia. 
Milosevic was recognized as the main obstacle to peace. During the summit of 
the European Union in Rome on November 8, 1991 - foreign ministers proposed 
economic sanctions against all Yugoslav republics until the crisis was resolved. 

This British and French dominated decision at the European Union was 
on the track of Resolution 713 of the United Nations Security Council, sponsored 
by the same countries from September, 25 1991. They also undermined the 
Dutch proposal of interposing 30,000 troops in Croatia. 42 

The absence of moral grounds for these even-handed decisions only 
infuriated the public around the world, and especially in Germany. The German 
public had long been sympathetic toward the Croatian and Slovenian suffering 
and after these morally questionable decisions it put Foreign Minister Genscher 
under strong pressure to recognize Slovenia and Croatia immediately. 

To apply the same pressure to all republics equally meant that Croatia 
and the other republics must make further concessions to the Serbs, over and 
above those proposed in Carrington's General Settlement, if they wanted to 

42 Susan L. Woodward, Balkan Tragedy (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1995), 
p. 180. 


survive. The Franco-British policy was not to annul openly the findings of the 
Badinter Commission, 43 but to apply enough pressure on other republics who 
would then accept the Serbian terms. In that case, the European Community 
could wash their hands, because the unfair agreement would be an inter- 
Yugoslav decision, not something imposed by the European Community. 

Germany diplomacy disliked that policy, but in the beginning it did not try 
to break with the unity of the European Union. However, after these pro-Serb 
Franco-British decisions, Germany realized that in essence this policy lead to the 
acceptance of Serbian territorial conquest. If the German government continued 
to comply with the Franco-British dominated EC foreign policy, it could hardly 
survive the next election. During the meeting of the EC foreign ministers in 
Brussels on December 17, Genscher pressed the other colleges to recognize 
Slovenia and Croatia. They compromised and left to the Badinter Commission 
to recommend the republic eligible for recognition. Four republics applied for 
recognition, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Slovenia. The 
Badinter Commission set up as one of conditions for recognition, control of the 
borders, which Croatia could not fulfill without accepting the battle front lines as 
the permanent borders. Realizing that she was outwitted, Germany announced 
the recognition of Croatia unilaterally. Then, the European Community decided 
to recognize Slovenia and Croatia, but Britain and France got what they wanted 

43 See p.55. 


- a scapegoat that would bear responsibility for breaking the European 
Community's unity and for subsequent deterioration of conditions in Yugoslavia. 





In late 1991, Greater Serbia began to emerge on the map of Europe. The 
Croatian Serbs, supported by irregulars from Serbia proper and the Yugoslav 
Army, conquered almost 30 per cent of Croatian territory. Bosnia was deeply 
involved in the Croatian War in many different ways 44 and the political situation 
became rather explosive. In October 1991, Radovan Karadizic was threatening 
the extermination of the Muslim population if Bosnia became an Independent 
state. In spite of this threat, the Muslims and Croats passed the resolution on 
Bosnian sovereignty. In November, the SDA party demanded that the EC 
extend international recognition to all Yugoslav republics. Izetbegovic was afraid 
of Serbian retaliation and in November 1991, pledged in the EC for non- 
recognition of Croatia before settling the Bosnian problem. 

In December 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with Croatia, 
Macedonia and Slovenia, applied to the Badinter Commission of the European 
Union for international recognition. With international recognition of Croatia and 
Slovenia in January 1992, Bosnian recognition became a realistic option. To 
satisfy the requirements for recognition, the Bosnian government had to have 
popular support for its request for recognition. The government announced the 

44 See sub-Chapter "Bosnia Before The War." 


referendum in March of 1992, but the Bosnian Serbs announced a boycott of 
that same referendum. 

Previously in the fall of 1991, the Bosnian Serbs announced the 
organizing of their own territorial entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, without defining 
the borders of that entity. When it became clear that the European Union had 
shifted its position toward the international recognition of the former Yugoslav 
republics, the Bosnian Serbs organized their own referendum. Their referendum 
was to confirm their decision to keep their illegal entity of the Republic of Srpska 
Bosnia-Herzegovina in Yugoslavia. On January 9, the Serbs proclaimed their 
entity (later renamed the Republic of Srpska) to be a part of the Yugoslav 

Realizing how explosive the situation in Bosnia was, the International 
community tried to facilitate a constitutional agreement for Bosnia-Herzegovina, 
even before the result of Muslim-Croat referendum was officially known. The 
task of mediation was given to Lord Carrington, a special envoy of the EC to the 
former Yugoslavia and to Portuguese Ambassador Jose Cutileiro. They 
proposed the administrative-territorial reorganization of Bosnia starting from the 
Bosnian ethnic map. The country would have been reorganized according to the 
model existing in Switzerland - Bosnian districts would have become ethnic 
cantons. Carrington and Cutileiro used very simplified principles for the 
determination of ethnic cantons. For instance, if in some cantons there lived 
even a small majority of Serbs, the canton would be Serbian. They were not 


bothered with the fact that Muslims and Croats, who together represented a 
majority in some canton, would not like to live in a Serbian canton (see Figure 1). 

Carrington-Cutileiro (Lisbon) Plan 

Figure 1 

Source: Lee Bryant, "Bosnia-Herzegovina," War Report 
(November/December 1992), p.12. 

This was the moment when serious political differences between Bosnian 
Muslims and Bosnian Croats appeared. Bosnian Muslims wanted to keep the 
unitary structure of post-World War II Bosnia that would assure their domination 
in the country. They did not trust either the Serbs or the Croats, especially in 
light of rumors about the agreed carve-up of Bosnia between them. 


On the other hand, being the smallest Bosnian nation (17.8%), Bosnian 
Croats tried to avoid political domination by two other peoples. Their ideal option 
was a Croatian-Bosnian union, but on the eve of international recognition of 
Bosnia, that option was not a real one. Therefore, Bosnian Croats tried to 
achieve, at any expense, some degree of autonomy in the predominantly 
Croatian areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Under international pressure in Lisbon, all three sides made some 
concessions, and they generally agreed to preserve the external borders of 
Bosnia-Herzegovina and to carry out the internal partition on an ethnic basis. 
The talks should have continued until the territorial division was agreed upon, but 
Izetbegovic changed his mind after returning to Sarajevo. Powerful members of 
the SDA party rejected the ethnic partition of Bosnia and forced him to abolish 
the Lisbon Agreement. Izetbegovic's indecisiveness would continue throughout 
the next three years. In this case, by changing his mind Izetbegovic turned down 
the best offer he ever got. Every ensuing proposal for the peace agreement in 
Bosnia would be worse. 

Disappointed by Izetbegovic's new position, leaders of the Bosnian Serbs 
and the Bosnian Croats met secretly in Graz, Austria, trying to achieve bilateral 
agreement. But, they achieved nothing except fueling old rumors about a Serb- 
Croat carve-up of Bosnia. Serbs felt they were too strong to make concessions 
to other nations. They already prepared themselves for war. 



Almost immediately, the first incidents began in the northern part of the 
country. The Serbs and Croats fought in Bosanski Brod. A similar situation 
began in the Mostar region in the south of the country. In the northeast, the 
Serbian irregulars massacred Muslims in Bijeljina. 

The situation was deteriorating rapidly. Surprisingly, the presidency of the 
republic issued a statement that they still considered the Yugoslav Army to be 
the Bosnian Army and that the Army would protect the Bosnian people. The 
Bosnian Croats were shocked after this statement. They did not understand that 
political step, because it had become clear during the Croatian war that the Army 
had become the Serbian Army. 

The result of the referendum on independence (held from February 28 
until March 1 ) was known in advance. The Serbs largely boycotted referendum 
but some voted for staying in Yugoslavia; Muslims and Croats voted for Bosnian 
independence. On April 6, the EC recognized Bosnia-Herzegovina as an 
independent state. The same day war started in Sarajevo. Very soon, Serbian 
troops occupied all strategic hills around the city. In practice, the Serbs did not 
need to conquer anything. They just replaced the badges of the Yugoslav Army 
with Serbian badges. All Yugoslav Army officers born in Bosnia were transferred 
from Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia to Bosnia. 45 The Yugoslav Army in 

45 "Milosevic and I were talking about it... We instructed the General Staff to redeploy troops 
and to transfer all those born in Bosnia to Bosnia and withdraw those born in Serbia and 
Montenegro to Serbia and Montenegro... [By the time of recognition], I think, eighty-five percent 


Bosnia became the Army of the Bosnian Serbs. But, different Serbian militias, 
which had had fighting experience during the Croatian War, committed most of 
the terrible crimes. 

By the end of the summer of 1992, the Serbs conquered almost two-thirds 
of Bosnia. The Muslim population was expelled from almost all areas where the 
Serbs and Muslims had lived intermixed before the war. With help from Serbia 
proper, the Serbian forces almost fully controlled the Drina Valley - a natural 
border between Serbia and Bosnia with several important power plants. In 
Eastern Bosnia, Muslim resistance continued in the small cities of Gorazde, 
Srebrenica, and Zepa. They became thorns in Serbia's side. In Western 
Bosnia, only the Bihac enclave survived. All other cities were ethnically 
cleansed. In the summer of 1992, the Serbs established concentration camps 
for Muslims and Croats in the area of Prijedor. Those non-Serbs, who avoided 
the concentration camps, were later expelled. The situation in Central Bosnia 
(Zenica, Travnik) was a little bit better. Central Bosnia with the Tuzla enclave in 
the northwest, remained the only area of free peace in the Bosnian territory 
under Muslim control. 

Sarajevo was encircled. The Serbs conquered all the suburban areas 
where a significant number of Serbs lived (Hadzici, llidza, llijas, Rajlovac, 
Lukavica, etc.). Eastward from Sarajevo in Pale, the Serbs established a 

of them were from Bosnia," said Branko Jovic in Laura Silber's and Alan Little's, Yugoslavia: 
Death Of A Nation (TV Books, Inc., distributed by Penguin USA, 1996), p.218. 


temporary capitol. There were no routes into or out of Sarajevo. Together with 
the free enclaves in Eastern Bosnia, Sarajevo began starving. 

Bosnian Croats entered the war a little bit better organized than the 
Bosnian Muslims. The Bosnian Croats got the clear message from the war in 
Croatia. They knew what kind of treatment they could expect in the future from 
the Serbian Army and they tried to induce the Muslims to organize the joint 
resistance through Territorial Defense Units. 46 Having failed in this attempt, they 
turned to their kinsmen in Croatia. The Republic of Croatia helped them to 
organize the areas of defense where a significant number of Croats lived. So, 
Bosnian Croats had only two significant military formations in the beginning of 
the war - the HVO and the HOS (Hrvatske Oruzane Snage or Croatian Armed 
Forces). These units existed until the winter of 1992, at which time the HOS 
units were either dismissed or merged with the HVO units. The HVO units were 
better organized and equipped than the military forces of the Bosnian Muslims, 
but these units were also organized on the territorial principle and a majority of 
them were able to defend only their own villages. 

Such units were not able to resist the well-organized Serbian military 
force, and the Croats were defeated in the Kupres area in April of 1992. On 
June 16, 1992 Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina signed a formal military alliance, 
which legalized the military assistance of the Croatian Army to Muslim and Croat 
troops in the border areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the summer of 1992, the 

46 Ibid., p.52. 


Croats successfully liberated the east bank of the river Neretva and the city of 
Mostar. In the Posavina region, close to the northern Bosnian-Croatian border, 
the Croatian troops controlled a large part of the Bosnian territory cutting the 
connection between the Banja Luka (Serb dominant) region and Serbia. But, 
under strong international pressure, the Croatian Army had to limit its assistance 
in the Posavina region and joint Serbian troops (from Serbia and Bosnia) broke 
the notorious Posavina corridor, which connected Banja Luka and the Krajina 
region with Serbia. The Bosnian Croats were driven over the river Sava to 
Croatia. Having secured supplied lines, the Serbs conquered Jajce in Central 
Bosnia. The city was defended by a joint Muslim-Croat defense, but because of 
deteriorated Muslim-Croat relations in Central Bosnia, it did not get help for a 
long time and finally fell into Serbian hands. 

By the end of 1992, the Serbs had conquered almost 70% of the Bosnian 
territory, and kept it almost three years without significant changes. 


Refusing to mobilize, in order not to provoke the Serbs, President 
Izetbegovic put the destiny of the Muslim people in the hands of the International 
community. Unfortunately, the International community did very little to protect 
his people and Bosnia-Herzegovina from Serbian aggression. 

From the beginning of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, the actions of 
the international community reflected an inconsistent approach. Its policy 
wavered from support for the territorial integrity in Yugoslavia (spring 1991), to 


the decisions of the Badinter Commission (August 1992), to the collective 
punishment of all Yugoslav republics by imposing arms and economic 
embargoes (September and October of 1991), even as Serbia was designated 
as main obstacle to peace. It then wavered to the international recognition of 
Croatia and Slovenia (later Bosnia), but at the same time denied them the right 
to self-defense which led to the violation of the UN Charter. Almost all decisions 
and actions of the international community were driven by current events on the 
ground, rather than by some firmly established policy. 

Apparently, the problem was the absence of leadership. The United 
States (Bush Administration) ceded the problem to the European Community 
(Union). But the foreign policy of the European Union was set in list of English, 
French, or German national interest. That is why those decisions were so 
inconsistent. These sometimes worked in favor of the Serbs, sometimes in favor 
of the Croats or Muslims. Because of such inconsistencies, the European 
Community lost its credibility in the eyes of the players on the ground, giving 
them reason to believe that they could do whatever they wanted (without being 

In May of 1992, the United Nations recognized Bosnia-Herzegovina as a 
full-fledged member of the international community, but its "decision to recognize 
was not accompanied by a commitment to follow through with the consequences 
of recognition that flowed from the UN Charter and international law. The 
consequences were to guarantee the integrity and inviolability of the states that 


were recognized. 47 The economic sanctions against the Federal Republic of 
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Monte Negro), introduced by Security Council of the 
United Nations at the end of May 1992, were the only effective step undertaken 
by the international community against the Serbs. By withdrawing diplomatic 
personnel from Belgrade, the international community placed Belgrade in 
complete isolation. 

The extension of the UNPROFOR mandate from Croatia to Bosnia only 
complicated the different diplomatic efforts. It is very hard to resist the 
impression that Britain and France launched the UN mission in Bosnia and other 
humanitarian actions to prevent military action, because they had troops on the 
ground. "From July till November 1992, they [Britain and France] objected, 
stalled and weakened each resolution being pressed by the United States that 
involved grater use of military power." 48 

Finally in late August of 1992, the European Community (supported by the 
UN) organized London Conference, which was the most ambitious international 
summit on Bosnia. The Conference condemned the role of Serbia in the 
Bosnian crisis, but also enabled the Serbs to eschew the international isolation. 
The conference established the standing Peace Conference for former 

47 Zalmay M. Khalizad, "Lessons from Bosnia" (RAND, 1993). 

48 Susan L. Woodward, Balkan Tragedy (Washington D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1995), p. 


Yugoslavia, which would be co-chaired by UN envoy Cyrus Vance and Lord 
David Owen. 

In the winter and spring of 1993, the humanitarian crisis reached its 
climax. Sarajevo and the enclaves in the east of the country were on the brink of 
starvation. Above all, the Serbs launched their final attacks against the eastern 
enclaves. Pushed by the promise of the commander of the UN troops, the UN 
Security Council proclaimed the establishment of the UN safe areas. But, there 
were no UN forces to protect those areas. Apparently, the international 
community showed no will to punish Serbian crimes. The Muslims and the 
Bosnian Croats understood the message. 


Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats were pushed into a military alliance 
because both nations were victims of Serbian aggression. But, the political 
leadership of these two nations never tried to determine common political goals 
for their alliance. That was not possible, because they did not have common 
political goals, but only one basic goal - to survive Serbian aggression. 

Both nations harbored deep suspicions about each other's intention. 
Muslims suspected Croatians of secret negotiations with Serbs, while Croats 
resented the Bosnian Muslim role in the Croatian war, which the Croats 
considered a stab in the back. As far as contacts with the Serbs were 
concerned, the truth was probably that no nation had "clean hands." But, the 
most problematic aspect in the relations between the Bosnian Muslims and the 


Bosnian Croats was their completely opposite views about the future 
organization of the Bosnian state. The Muslims wanted a unitary Bosnian State 
organized on the principle of one-man/one-vote, while the Croats could only 
accept a decentralized political system that would guarantee their rights as the 
smallest Bosnian nation. Events pushed them into an uneasy military alliance 
before they could determine what they would fight for. 

Bosnian Croats had been criticized many times for their excessively close 
relations with Croatia proper. But, the circumstances in Bosnia in 1992 left them 
no choice. The Bosnian Croats realized that they had to protect themselves. 
Bosnian Croats were completely dependent on logistic support from Croatia. 
Humanitarian, military and all other aid came from Croatia. On the one hand, the 
ideal political solution for Bosnian Croats assumed that establishing strong 
institutional connections with Croatia was what was needed. These war-driven 
events only played into the hands of those factions that wanted to be absorbed 
by Croatia. Banovina Croatia, or the "Independent State of Croatia" from World 
War II, was the ideal territorial solution for them, but Bosnia-Herzegovina 
became an independent state and the minimal political option they could accept 
was a strong territorial autonomy for the predominantly Croatian areas of Bosnia- 
Herzegovina. That option looked realistic for those who lived close to the 
Croatian border, but many of them lived intermixed with Serbs and Muslims and 
they were afraid of being "unprotected" in the predominantly Serb or Muslim 


areas. 49 But, by the beginning of the Bosnian war, the political significance of 
Bosnian Croats who lived on homogenous territories increased, because they 
were able to mobilize more men into the military units. The Croats who lived in 
small isolated communities or in big Muslim or Serb cities were the majority of 
the Croatian population in Bosnia, but they were not able to organize significant 
military units. In some areas (cities) they did it, and surprisingly survived 
throughout much of the war. Their political significance was decreased during 
the war. 

Even before the beginning of the war, the political significance of the 
Croats who lived in homogenous areas was significantly increased. It was 
reflected in the replacement of the chief of the main Bosnian Croat party - HDZ. 
Mate Boban, who lived in the predominantly Croatian Western Herzegovina, 
replaced Stjepan Kljuic, who lived in Sarajevo. After the liberation of Mostar, the 
political importance of Croats in Herzegovina increased, because it was the only 
large city in Bosnia-Herzegovina under Croatian control. So, the Bosnian Croats 
decided to capitalize on their military strength in political life. Because the 
military strength of the Bosnian Muslims was on a low level, the Croats could 
ignore their political opinion. They thought they had full rights and enough 
strength to continue the process started by the European Community in Lisbon in 
February - i.e. the ethnic partitioning of Bosnia-Herzegovina. On July 2, 1992 

49 In the case of autonomy, when the Croats were exclusive sovereigns in areas where they 
were the majority of the population, they would lose the right to be a sovereign nation in areas 
where the Serbs or Muslims were majority of the population. 


the Bosnian Croats proclaimed the establishment of the Croatian Community 

The Muslim reactions and the reactions of international observers were 
strongly negative. Though the Croats tried to persuade everyone that with the 
establishment of Herzeg-Bosnia they just tried to organize their civil life in a free 
Bosnian territory 50 which was really chaotic, most observers compared Herzeg- 
Bosnia 51 with the notorious Republic of Srpska. The truth is probably the 
following: The Bosnian Croats had no intentions of seceding from Bosnia in that 
moment, but Herzeg-Bosnia was for them, a kind of insurance policy at a time 
when all other options about the future of Bosnia were opened. They probably 
thought: "If Bosnia survived, good - we will have an autonomous region. If 
Bosnia is stillborn, good - we will join Croatia." 

This step by the Bosnian Croats only increased the old tensions between 
Muslims and Croats. The Croats accused the Muslims of avoiding the burden of 
defense of the country, while in political life, the Muslims-dominant government 
took the prerogative to speak in the name of the Bosnian Croats. In some areas, 
the Croats even helped to equip the Muslim units, because they were over- 

50 Unlike the Republic of Srpska, which the Serbs considered to be independent from Bosnia, all 
official documents and seals of the Herzeg-Bosnia carried the title "Republic of Bosnia and 
Herzegovina - Croatian Community Herzeg-Bosnia." 

51 Both entities had no foothold in the Bosnian Constitution, but from the Fall of 1991, no political 
decision in Bosnia was made with the consensus of all three constitutional nations. After all, the 
legal terms of all government officials expired in December 1991, but Alija Izetbegovic and others 
convinced the International Community that he and his government spoke for all citizens of 


stretched. The Croats thought that their strong military engagement gave them 
stronger political rights. Because the Croatian forces solely liberated the cities of 
Mostar, Stolac, and Capljina, the Croats thought they had the exclusive right to 
establish political authorities in these cities. Actually, the Croats even accused 
some Muslims in Stolac of collaborating with the Serbs in the spring of 1992. 

The situation became even worse after the fall of Jajce. Both, Muslims 
and Croats were blaming each for the fall of the city. The tensions became 
stronger, when 40,000 Muslim people from Jajce came to Travnik and other 
cities changing ethnic balance in Central Bosnia. 

Political tensions and several incidents on the ground created the 
conditions for the Muslim-Croat war. The international community did nothing to 
reestablish a Muslim-Croat partnership. Quite to the contrary, decisions made in 
the spring of 1993 convinced the Muslim and Croat leadership that the 
independent Bosnia and Herzegovina were stillborn, which triggered the Muslim 
Croat war. 



V. MUSLIM-CROAT WAR 1993-1994 


After the London Conference 52 in late August of 1992, David Owen took 
the place of the EU mediator, Peter Carrington. He continued working with the 
UN mediator, Cyrus Vance, toward a comprehensive solution for the crisis in the 
former Yugoslavia. The London Conference gave new impetus to diplomatic 
efforts by establishing the International Conference of former Yugoslavia in 
Geneva on September 3, 1992. Mediators shuttled from capitol to capitol in the 
former Yugoslav republics, now independent states, trying to discover the 
political least common denominator acceptable for all sides. 

The beginning of the Bosnian war was also the beginning of the 
presidential campaign in the United States. The Democrat candidate, then 
Governor Bill Clinton, presented a different, more determined approach toward 
the Bosnian Crisis 53 and especially toward the Serbs. Clinton pleaded for direct 
military action. President Bush attacked him because of his inexperience in 
foreign policy, but took up his proposal for denying military flights over Bosnia. 

52 See p.70. 

53 On July 12, he said, "The United States should take the lead in seeking UN Security Council 
authorization for air strikes against those who were attacking the relief effort. The USA should be 
prepared to lend appropriate military support to that operation. We should make clear that the 
economic blockade against Serbia would be tightened, not only on weapons but also on oil and 
other supplies that sustain the renegade regime of Slobodan Milosevic. European and US naval 
forces in the Adriatic should be given authority by the UN to stop and search any that might be 


This idea was later passed through the Security Council of the United Nations as 
an official resolution. 

In Europe, Clinton's words had a different impact. During preliminary 
meetings with the leaders of the European countries, when Owen and Vance 
tried to determine how far Europe was ready to go in the Bosnian crisis, French 
President Francois Mitterrand specifically warned mediators of "the danger of 
aggressive force 54 against the Serbs and ruled out airs strikes." This was 
completely in line with the previous Franco-British "equal approach" attitude 
toward all sides in the conflict. In the situation when one side was armed to the 
teeth, and others were counting every bullet, such equality meant tacit support of 
the stronger (Serbian) side. On the other hand, after international recognition of 
Bosnia-Herzegovina it would be very hard to justify her partition between Serbs, 
Croats, and Muslims, which would essentially mean the creation of a Greater 
Serbia, a Greater Croatia, and an independent Muslim state. So, having this in 
mind, Owen and Vance proposed a new constitutional solution and 
administrative reorganization of Bosnia-Herzegovina - known as the Vance- 
Owen Peace Plan. 

The Plan presented at a Conference in Geneva on January 2, 1993 
consisted of three main papers and one annex with interim solutions. According 

carrying contraband heading for Serbia and her ally Montenegro." David Owen, Balkan Odyssey 
(New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995), p. 13. 

54 Mitterrand was so eager to prove that Sarajevo could be used for humanitarian transports, and 
that air strikes were not needed to support the delivery of food that he flew there at great personal 
risk at the end of July 1992. 


to the Vance-Owen Peace Plan, Bosnia was supposed to be a decentralized 
state with ten provinces. Provinces were not designated with national names, 
but they were organized on an ethnic principle. Sarajevo was supposed to be a 
special district with multinational authorities. The plan would annul the major 
Serbian territorial conquest, but it also confirmed the ethnic partition of Bosnia 
(see Figure 2). 

Comparing the Vance-Owen Peace Plan to the Carrington-Cutileiro Peace 
Plan, it must be said that the new plan corrected some mistakes made in 
Carrington-Cutileiro Plan, but the biggest flaw in the plan was in the territorial 
simplification of the situation in central Bosnia. The authors took the Muslim- 
Croat alliance for granted and joined ethnically mixed districts in central Bosnia 
with the predominantly Croatian districts in Western Bosnia-Herzegovina, which 
resulted in creating one big, predominately Croatian district. The plan also 
required the Serbian withdrawal from large parts of predominantly Muslim 
territory in Eastern Bosnia, but not from the city of Brcko. The authors obviously 
took into account the military power of Bosnian Serbs (they obtained some 
territories where they were not the majority of the population), the wishes of the 
international community (the solution that can be implemented), and the wishes 
of Bosnian Muslims (not to create either the Serbian or Croatian republic in 
Bosnian state). So, the Croats had to give up Herzeg-Bosnia, the Serbs had to 
give up the Republic of Srpska, and the Muslims had to give up the unitary 
Bosnian state. 


Vance-Owen Plan 

Figure 2 

Source: Klemencic, Mladen. Boundary and Territory Briefing. 
International Boundary Research Unit, Department of 
Geography, University of Durham, United Kingdom. 1994. 

Surprisingly, the strongest opposition did not come from the Serbian side, 
which would have given up almost 40 per cent of the conquered territory, but 
from the Muslims. Alija Izetbegovic endorsed the constitutional principles, but 
the maps were totally unacceptable for him. He accused the mediators of 
creating maps that would ratify the Serbian "ethnic cleansing" and effectively 
prevent the return of refugees. Although he did not say that, he was not satisfied 
with solutions in central Bosnia and Northern Herzegovina. Predominantly 


Muslim districts of Central Bosnia and Northern Herzegovina, such as Konjic, 
Jablanica, Donji Vakuf, and Gornji Vakuf, became Croatian provinces which 
additionally increased the tensions between Muslims and Croats, who were 
already on the brink of war. 

The distribution of the population in Central Bosnia looked like a tiger's 
skin. There was no district with a significant majority of the population of one 
nation (above 66 per cent), and only few of them had over 50 per cent of the 
population of one nation. The mediators could not create a predominantly 
Muslim or Croat district in Central Bosnia by redrawing the borders of the 
districts, because unlike those parts of Bosnia that were ethnically homogenized 
by the Serbian territorial conquest, Central Bosnia still had the old mixed ethnic 
structure intact. The proposed solution, which simply joined Central Bosnia to 
the predominantly Croatian part of the country, infuriated the Muslims, and they 
refused to sign the Vance-Owen Plan. The mediators thought that it would be 
much easier to convince Bosnian Muslims in Central Bosnia to live in a Croat 
dominated province, than to convince Bosnian Croats to live in a Muslim 
dominated province. Unfortunately, the Muslim-Croat relations in Central Bosnia 
were so bad at the moment that it would be hard to do that any way. 

The Serbs rejected the constitutional principle, but accepted the most 
difficult part to negotiate - the maps - as a good basis for starting negotiations. 
Apparently, Karadzic left Izetbegovic alone to be "the black sheep." The Croats 
accepted everything proposed by the Vance-Owen Plan. 


The mediators turned toward the influential members of the international 
community and asked them to press Izetbegovic to accept the plan to isolate 
Serbs. The Russians accepted the idea and proposed the strong statement of 
the Security Council, urging the parties to accept the plan. The statement was 
endorsed by all missions in the UN, except the United States. The American 
mission was cautious and suspicious of the Russians' motives. That was a very 
tense moment for the United States mission in the United Nations, because 
during the next ten days the new administration was to come to power, which 
would definitely have a much more pro-Bosnian attitude. The United States' 
mission issued a rather ambiguous statement about the Vance-Owen Peace 
Plan and according to Lord Owen, 55 "... some in the US State Department were 
encouraging Izetbegovic to seek changes in the map which we knew were not 
negotiable and in all probability they too knew were not negotiable." 

In spite of American reluctance, international pressure was fruitful and 
during the next weeks the Muslims and Bosnian Serbs signed the constitutional 
principles, while the Croats and the Serbs signed a cease-fire. But, there was no 
final agreement. 

Mediators then decided to move the negotiations to New York and to meet 
the new American administration with all of the details of the plan. But, the 
reports after the unified meeting of Secretary General Buthros Ghali, the new 
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and the mediators were rather 

55 David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995), p. 94. 


disappointing. The Secretary General expressed his ambivalence, while Warren 
Christopher had "problems with the map." 56 Most of the media reported that the 
United States refused to back the Vance-Owen Peace Plan. 

During the next few months, mediators continued with negotiations by 
slightly changing the map in order to accommodate the Muslims and the US 
administration. Izetbegovic was close to signing the plan, but that shifted 
Karadzic's opinion toward complete rejection. Now, the attention of the 
international community was focused on the Serbs. The next step in that 
direction was tightening the sanctions and blocking the Yugoslav assets, which 
was endorsed by the resolution of the United Nations. The other problem for 
mediators was how to establish a credible implementation force without the 
support of the United States. 

In the United States, there was a fierce public debate whether to abolish 
the United States armed embargo against the Muslims unilaterally or to use the 
military force and to impose a peace solution. The military was strongly opposed 
to involvement in the Bosnian Crisis without seeing clear political objectives. 
Above all they were opposed to being involved in the UN mission under French 
command. The Vietnam syndrome had also played its role. 57 

56 Ibid., p.108. 

57 Mislav Burdelez, The Vietnam Syndrome and the conflict in former Yugoslavia (Monterey: 
Naval Postgraduate School, 1996). 


The situation on the ground was deteriorating rapidly. The Serbian 
military commander, who was opposing the agreement, attacked the eastern 
enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa and they were about to fall. Armed incidents 
between Muslims and Croats were significantly escalating in Central Bosnia and 
the situation was about to explode, but the focus of the international community 
was on the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Bosnia. 

On March 25, 1993, after waiting for 5 hours for Izetbegovic, he and 
Boban reached an agreement about interim arrangements and the provincial 
maps. His habitual indecisiveness would continue into the future. Mediators 
pressed the Croats and the Muslims to implement the agreement in areas under 
their control, but that idea would remain unfulfilled especially in the light of 
increasing Muslim-Croat tensions. The Croats tried to take advantage of the 
provisions of the Vance-Owen Plan by introducing the joint command structure. 
The Minister of Defense, Croat Bozo Rajic, made a unilateral 58 decision that 
assumed that all Croatian military units would be subordinate to Muslim 
command in the Vance-Owen provinces with Muslim majority, and all Muslim 
units would be subordinate to Croatian command in the Croatian provinces. It 
would mean that all Muslim units in Central Bosnia would be subordinate to the 
Croatian Command, which was almost unimaginable in the light of the strong 
tensions on the ground. 

58 Misha Glenny, The Third Balkan War (London, New York: Penguin, 1996), p. 229. 


The situation exploded in the middle of April of 1993. That was the 
moment when Muslim authorities in Sarajevo probably made the decision to give 
up on the Vance-Owen Peace Plan and to make some gains on the ground. 
They were probably encouraged by the indirect support of the new United States 
administration and some Muslim officials even hoped to achieve direct American 
intervention in Bosnia. In the meantime they turned to the weakest party in the 
Bosnian conflict - the Bosnian Croats. Conflict quickly spread over Central 
Bosnia. On April 16, the General Staff of the ABIH (Armija Bosne i Herzegovine 
- Muslim dominant Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina) ordered a general attack on the 
Croatian enclaves in Central Bosnia. 59 The Croats in Central Bosnia were 
surrounded until April 19. The Muslim forces tried to conquer the armed 
factories in Vitez and Novi Travnik, which were under Croatian Control and to 
gain control over the roads crossing the territories under Croatian control. 
Unfortunately, due to bad discipline and a general lack of professionalism, the 
heaviest casualties were among civilians. 60 This conflict remained in the 
shadows of heavy battles and crimes committed in Eastern Bosnia. The local 
commanders of the UN troops were successfully calming down the tensions 

59 These documents were revealed during the trial in The Hague to the Commander-in-Chief of 
Croatian Forces in Central Bosnia, General Tihofil Blaskic during the period between September 
11 until October 11, 1998. <> [Access October 20, 1998] 

60 The International War Crime Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague accused 7 
Bosnian Croats of different war crimes committed against Muslim civilians in Central Bosnia. The 
most famous of them is the Commander-in-Chief of the Bosnian Croat forces in Central Bosnia 
during that time; later the Chief of General Staff of Bosnian Croat forces HVO, General Tihofil 


between the Muslims and the Croats until the summer of 1993. But, in June of 
1993, this local conflict became a full-scale war between the Muslims and the 
Croats in Central Bosnia and Western Herzegovina as well. 


Until April of 1993, Izetbegovic formally accepted the Vance-Owen Peace 
Plan, probably because he felt that Karadzic would never accept it. The 
pressure of the international community was turned on to the Serbs, and soon it 
produced some results. Milosevic accepted the plan and tried to persuade 
Karadzic to do the same. Milosevic did not like the plan, but he tried, at any 
expense, to avoid the financial and other sanctions imposed by the international 
community. He pressed Karadzic and his clique very hard, but they managed to 
escape Milosevic's pressure by ceding to the decision of the "Parliament" of the 
Republic of Srpska. To Milosevic's surprise, the "Parliament" rejected the plan. 
He lost control over the Bosnian Serbs. In the very least, the Vance-Owen 
Peace Plan and the sanctions split the Serbs. 

The mediators realized that they must expose the Bosnian Serbs to the 
direct pressure of the international community, including their traditional allies, 
the Russians and the Greeks. In early May, the mediators persuaded the Greek 
Prime Minister Mitsotakis to host a summit, at which the international community 
would convince the Bosnian Serbs to accept the agreement. The meeting 
started on May 1, 1993 and continued for three days until the Bosnian Serbs, 
exposed to pressure and open threats, conditionally signed the plan. 


The session of the Bosnian Serb "Parliament" started immediately upon 
return of all the officials from Greece. Karadzic held a neutral speech leaving the 
decision to the members of Parliament, who formally did not reject the plan, but 
decided to organize a referendum on that issue. The result was the same. 
Milosevic responded with sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs, trying to ease the 
international pressure on his country. 

After the rejection of the Vance-Owen Peace Plan, Warren Christopher 
went to Europe to engage the allies in a more determined approach toward the 
Bosnian Crisis. Christopher suggested four possible ways to continue dealing 
with the Bosnian crisis: (1) increased sanctions, (2) an enforced cease-fire, (3) 
air strikes, and (4) lifting the arms embargo. 61 The United States administration 
favored the fourth option, but the Europeans still did not think that the Vance- 
Owen Peace Plan had failed. Soon, The French tried to pass the United Nations 
resolution but the Americans issued a statement that Secretary Christopher was 
discussing other measures in Europe. Obviously, the United States moved on a 
different track. The Europeans did not recognized that the new American 
administration, unlike Bush's administration, was no longer willing to cede the 
leading role in the Bosnian Crisis to them. After the European policy failed, the 
United States tried a different approach. 

In those days, the United States started new diplomatic initiatives with 
France, the United Kingdom, and Russia. The new policy should have been 


announced on May 22, 1993, but the whole story was announced the day before 
in the New York Times under the huge title: "United States and Russia Agree on 
Strategy Accepting Serbian Gains for Now." David Owen depicted these events 
as "depressing from the European Community viewpoint, jubilant from Pale, 
despairing from Sarajevo and cynical from Belgrade ... It was bizarre and, for me 
personally, exasperating that the United States, who had been against the 
Vance-Owen Peace Plan map for favoring the ethnic cleansing, was now 
advocating a map that allowed the Serbs to keep more territory. " 62 

The "containment" policy was introduced as the "Joint Action Plan" by the 
United States, France, Russia, the UK and Spain (temporary member of the 
Security Council at that time) on May 22, 1993. The Joint Action Plan was aimed 
toward sealing the Bosnian borders to prevent incursions or military support from 
neighboring states and establishing six safe areas. The Muslims were shocked 
and immediately rejected the plan, but the Serbs cheered the plan "as the first 
sober public statement by the West." 63 

All three sides recognized the importance of the new policy, which 
basically allowed them to keep as much land as they could conquer. Izetbegovic 

61 David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1995), p. 160. 

62 Ibid., p.169. 

63 Laura Silber and Allan Little, Yugoslavia: Death Of A Nation (TV Books, Inc., distributed by 
Penguin USA, 1996), p.289. 


said that the world did not leave the Muslims too much of a choice. 64 In spite of 
the fact that the mediators tried to induce the implementation of the Vance-Owen 
Peace Plan at least among the Muslims and the Croats and push them toward 
mutual negotiations, these efforts were overtaken by the events on the ground. 
In Central Bosnia, Croats were pushed from Travnik, Bugojno, and Fojnica, while 
Gornji Vakuf and Novi Travnik were split in half. Croats in Central Bosnia were 
pushed into several small enclaves. The largest enclave was Novi Travnik- Vitez- 
Busovaca, which was later separated from the enclave of Kiseljak-Kresevo (and 
part of the Fojnica district). Small Croatian pockets remained around the cities of 
Zepce, Vares, several Croatian villages in the north (close to city of Doboj), the 
so-called Usora enclave, south of the city of Brcko, the so-called Ravne-Brcko 
enclave, and several villages close to Konjic in Herzegovina. 

The Joint Action Plan reestablished the close cooperation between the 
United States and the major European allies, but it also brought about division 
inside the European Community. Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and other 
European countries resented the United Kingdom, France, and Spain in their 
abolishing the Maastricht principles of "Common Foreign and Security Policy." 
This new division would affect future diplomatic efforts to find a peace solution 
for the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. 

64 Ibid., p.289. 



After the introduction of the "Containment" policy, mediators faced the 
logical question: "What kind of durable peace solution could be achieved with the 
containment policy?" Apparently the most powerful nations in the world rejected 
any kind of serious peace-making intervention in Bosnia and left the warring 
sides (now three of them) to find a military equilibrium among themselves, i.e. to 
fight until they were exhausted. In a situation when all three sides are fighting 
each other, a three-part separation seemed to be the logical solution. That did 
not necessarily mean the immediate carve-up of Bosnia between Serbia, 
Croatia, and the Bosnian Muslims, but in the long run, it could be expected. 

Realizing that, the mediators tried to arrange a constitutional agreement, 
which would enable the creation of a Muslim Republic in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or 
in the future, a viable independent Muslim state. The starting point was that 
there would be no viable Muslim State without access to the sea to the south, 
and to the river Sava to the north. Access to the sea for the Muslims was 
possible only if Croats gave some territory on the coast and access to the river 
Sava was possible if the Serbs gave up the city of Brcko to the north. The 
Muslims had moral grounds in claiming the city of Brcko, which had been 
predominantly a Muslim city before the war, 65 but they never lived on the coast. 
The city of Neum was the only Bosnian territory on the coast, but it was 

65 According to the census of 1991, there were 44 per cent of Muslims, 25 per cent of Croats, and 
21 per cent of Serbs in Brcko before the war. 


predominantly a Croatian city. 66 Besides that, the coast in the Neum-KIek Bay 
was not suitable for building a major port for the Bosnian Muslim Republic, and 
the only solution was to press the Croats to give up some territory on the coast. 
That meant redrawing borders between the former Yugoslav republics. 

In the middle of June of 1993, Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg, who 
replaced Cyrus Vance, met several times with Milosevic, Tudjman, Izetbegovic, 
Karadzic, and Boban and these meetings established the basic principles for the 
next three peace plans for Bosnia: Union of three Republics, the EU Action Plan, 
and the Contact Group Plan. During the negotiations about the EU Action Plan, 
the United States also sponsored the establishment of a Muslim-Croat 
Federation. All these plans (including the Federation) dealt with the partitioning 
of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which would give the contiguous territory to the Serbian 
Republic in Bosnia. In some documents these plans for the three Republics 
were called the Owen-Stoltenberg Plans, but David Owen himself called it the 
Serb-Croat Plan. 

At the end of June of 1993, the EC troika unwillingly accepted the fact that 
the Vance-Owen plan was dead. But, the old problem, i.e. the division of 
territory, had not disappeared with the new proposals. After a series of 
meetings, in the beginning of July, mediators got support in Belgrade and Zagreb 
for the Muslim republic that would have comprised 30 per cent of Bosnian 

66 According to the census of 1 991 , there were only 5 per cent Muslims in the district of Neum, 
but in the city less than 1 per cent. 


territory. Sarajevo would be put under United Nations protection and Mostar 
under the European Community administration. This was a serious offer and the 
mediators rushed to explain all the details to the European Community Foreign 
Ministers in Brussels. Izetbegovic stated that he could accept a cooperative 
solution for Bosnia, although it was difficult, for it effectively meant ethnic 
division. But, he was ready to negotiate in this direction. 

As the talks progressed, the fighting on the ground intensified. The 
Serbian offensive at Mt. Igman almost stalled the negotiations. The West 
threatened bombing. The siege of Sarajevo continued, but nothing really 
happened. The Serbs withdrew and the United Nations soldiers took their 
positions, releasing troops needed for fighting in other areas. 

During the summer, the plan was almost completed, but some European 
countries refused to back it. The German and Dutch Foreign Ministers claimed 
that the plan was not in conformity with the London Conference principles since it 
accepted that territory taken by force would remain in Serb hands. 67 

At the end of August, the Parliament of the Republic of Srpska voted to 
accept the plan, while the Muslim Parliament voted unanimously only to continue 
negotiations. Izetbegovic wanted all the territory in Eastern Bosnia that was 
predominantly Muslim before the war returned, and he wanted access to the sea 
in Neum. He accused the international community of pushing for the plan that 

67 Ibid., p.213. 


required the surrender of law to coercion and he could not accept such a 
solution. Bosnian Croats voted for the plan (see Figure 3). 

A Union of Three Republics 

';•:-:-;■; Sara|ovo District UN Administration 
— — Mcstof EU Administration 

Zopa -Gorazde link road which Is part 
o* lh£> Muslim majority republic 

Figure 3 

Source: David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt 
Brace and Company, 1996), p.218. 

All contested territories became terrible battlefields. The bloodiest war 
was in Central Bosnia where Muslim forces encircled Croatian enclaves. Using 
their numerical advantage, Muslim forces squeezed the Croats into their pockets 
and they were slowly gaining Bosnian Croat territory. Isolated Croatian pockets 
in Central Bosnia even established some cooperation with Serbs in order to 


survive. But, at the same time Muslims did not attack Croatian enclaves on the 
north, because that territory was not contested. That territory would remain in 
the Muslim Republic. In the south in Herzegovina, Muslim forces tried to break 
through toward the sea but the Croats checked them at the village of Buna 
(south of Mostar). The Croats were exposed to international pressure to be 
more cooperative in giving up territory to the Muslim Republic. The pro-Muslim 
media accused the Republic of Croatia of sending 30.000 68 troops to Bosnia, 
which every military expert knew was nonsense. Such large numbers of troops 
would mean a strategic change 69 of the military equilibrium and it would give a 
significant advantage to Croatian forces on the battlefield. Actually, the Bosnian 
Croats suffered from the lack of men, and slowly lost ground. Mediators brokered 
a Muslim-Croat cease-fire on September 14, 1993. It did not last longer than few 

At that stage of the Muslim-Croat war, the Muslims had no wish to stop 
fighting the Croats. They expected to gain Croatian territory by military means. 
The problem was the territory controlled by the Bosnian Serbs. The Muslim 
tactics toward the Serbs were different. At one time, Izetbegovic even offered 
Bosnian Serbs free secession if they conceded more territory, but the Serbs 

68 Laura Silber and Alan Little, Yugoslavia: Death Of A Nation (TV Books, Inc., distributed by 
Penguin USA, 1996), p.320. 

69 30,000 additional troops would increase the Bosnian Croat forces to more than 50 per cent. In 
that case, they would reach 80,000 troops which was the size of the forces of the Bosnian Serbs. 


refused. 70 The Croats refused the idea of a bilaterally negotiated secession, 
because it could establish an unpleasant precedent for the occupied Croatian 

The negotiations about a Union of three Bosnian Republics negatively 
influenced the internal relations among Bosnian Muslims. A group surrounding 
Prime Minister Silajdzic opposed the idea of creating three ethnic republics, and 
pleaded for a unitary state. He refused to sign the provisions of the agreement 
that would authorize a referendum on secession within two years. Later, his 
conflict with Izetbegovic escalated and he established his own political party. 

On September 18, all key players in the Bosnian crisis met on British 
aircraft carrier "Invincible," and tried to negotiate a solution. But, the problem 
remained the same: The Serbs did not cede the land for the Muslims in Eastern 
Bosnia. The Muslims demanded four per cent more of the land, but the Serbs 
were not ready to cede it. Izetbegovic left the decision to the Muslim Parliament, 
which turned it down. Even Izetbegovic changed his mind. On September 22, 
he stated in the Herald Tribune that "he was not personally inclined toward the 
proposal", a position diametrically opposed to the one he had adopted before. 71 
"The Muslims had clearly chosen to continue with the war, believing that 

70 David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1995), p. 21 5. 

71 Ibid., p.220. 


sanctions would soften up the Serbs and, on the advice of their military 
commanders, that they could defeat the Croats in Central Bosnia ," 72 

On October 3, eighteen Americans were killed in Somalia. This incident 
would have a strong influence on the United States political attitudes toward the 
United Nations and the Bosnian crisis. 


The fears of a humanitarian crisis that could happen during the next winter 
of 1993/94 shifted the public mood in the West toward the peace agreement that 
was offered on the "Invincible." Even Germany and the Netherlands were ready 
to back the Bosnian Union of Three Republics. The realities of war prevailed 
and it was clear that many of the principles of international justice would have to 
be put aside. 

In late October of 1993, the United States again criticized the United 
Kingdom and France for their refusal to lift the arm embargo for Bosnia. The 
short-lived unity of the allies achieved by the Joint Action Plan in May of 1993 
vanished. In early November of 1993, the European Union (the former 
European Community) took a more decisive approach to the Bosnian crisis. On 
November 7, the French and German Foreign Ministers, Alain Juppe and Klaus 
Kinkel, issued a letter to the President of the Foreign Affairs Council, in which 
they demanded 3 per cent more land for a Muslim Republic, so that the republic 

72 Ibid, p.221. 


could cover at least one third of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In return they proposed 
the relief of sanctions to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia and 
Montenegro. This was bargaining like at a farmers' market. The Muslims had 
demanded four per cent, but the European Union was to support 3.33 per cent. 
Mediators estimated that Europe was fed up with Bosnia, and the parties should 
be pushed toward a settlement. Europe was supporting the Muslims' claim for 
more land, but further warring could alienate the European Union. The United 
States was not happy with the Franco-German proposal for lifting the sanctions 
against Serbia. They were also not pleased with the peace agreement in 
Bosnia. They were not ready to press the Muslims to accept such an 

The Muslim-Croat war reached its climax. The Muslim Army (ABIH) 
conquered the Croatian enclave created around the predominantly Croatian town 
of Vares. The Croats were pushed to a small territory around the village of 
Dastansko, which was squeezed between the Muslims and the Serbs. The 
relations between the Muslims and the Croats were so bad that, unlike the Serbs 
and Muslims during the negotiations in Geneva, the Croats and Muslims did not 
want to negotiate directly. In the latter part of 1993, the Government in Sarajevo 
was a Muslim puppet. Izetbegovic convinced the world that he had the right to 
legitimately speak for all the Bosnian people. As David Owen said: "The 
collective Presidency as a democratic body was by the autumn of 1993 no longer 


a reality. The real choices were made elsewhere. We were in effect dealing with 
a Muslim government for a predominantly Muslim people." 73 

The other problem was in intra-Muslim relations. In reality no one was 
sure that the Muslims were ready to make an agreement with 3-4 per cent more 
land. Mediators recognized that lack of cohesion in the Muslim leadership and 
that damaged or at least slowed the negotiation process several times. 

On November 29, the parties were invited to a new round of negotiations. 
The European Union expected the Serbian side to make new concessions, the 
Croats to assure the access to the sea, and the Muslims to confirm satisfaction 
with four per cent more land. But, the Muslims changed over time. They could 
be satisfied with four per cent more territory, but Izetbegovic demanded the 
return of conquered territories in the East and Muslim sovereignty over Neum. 
The Croats were ready to offer the village of Tasovcici near Capljina on the 
Neretva River as an outlet to the sea, but the Muslims refused it and demanded 
sovereignty over Neum again (see Figure 4). 

Apparently, the Muslims felt no pressure and wanted to continue fighting 
the Bosnian Croats, pursuing more concessions. The President of Croatia 
offered territorial compensation in which the Muslims could get access to the sea 
in southern Croatia. But, the Muslims refused that offer, which was a negative 
sign suggesting they wanted to continue fighting. There was some progress on 
the map, and Muslim could get 31 .3 per cent of the land at the moment. 

73 Ibid., p.50. 


The European Union pressed the mediators to find a solution with 33.3 
per cent of the land and access to the sea for the Muslims. The lure should have 
been NATO's air coverage in the implementation of the agreement. But the 
Muslims wanted NATO troops on the ground, and that was something that the 
European Union could not offer without the United States. 

EU Action Plan 


EU Action Plan for Bosnian 
Muslim majority republic 
comprising over one-third 
of territory of Bosnia and 

Area 1 4.2% 

Area 2 65.4% 

Area 3 24.6% 

Area 4 1.4% 

Area 5 1.3% 

Sarajevo district 3.1% 

Total for Muslim majority republic, inducting 

Sarajevo District on a 2-1 basis, = 33.56% 


Figure 4 

Source: David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt 
Brace and Company, 1995), p.237. 

On December 20, the Croatian government sent a letter to the European 
Union ambassadors in Croatia that it would never support any agreement which 


did not ensure at least 17.5 per cent 74 of the land for Bosnian Croats and under 
no circumstances could Vitez and Busovaca be given up. On the secession 
issue, the Croatian government considered that it had to be tri-lateral agreement. 

The next day, Izetbegovic and Tudjman met in Geneva prior to a long 
Serb-Croat meeting. Serbs and Croats agreed to put aside their own territorial 
disputes and find 33.3% of land for the Muslims. That was the moment when the 
ratio 49 - 51 was established. In all later negotiation, this ratio was kept; 49 per 
cent of Bosnia for the Serbs and the rest for the Muslims and Croats. In return, 
they refused the United Nations and European Union administration in Sarajevo 
and Mostar, respectively. The access to the Sava River in Brcko was still 
unresolved because the Bosnian Serbs withdrew their concession on this issue. 
The other problems were also over the size of the corridors in Eastern Bosnia 
and the sovereignty over Neum. The Muslims were even ready to split Sarajevo 
and Mostar if they were satisfied with the other territories. As far as access to 
the sea was concerned, the European Union preferred the "Invincible" issue, but 
the United States delegate, Charles Redman warned that Muslim feelings toward 
Neum should not be underestimated. Although the parties made significant 
progress, the final solution was not achieved. 

David Owen stated that Muslims should have settled. They could have 
gotten a viable Muslim Republic and in the future an independent Muslim state. 
It would be the most stable solution if accepted by all parties. Since the Republic 

74 That was the percentage of Bosnian Croats in overall population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 


of Croatia and Bosnia, Croats were under strong international pressure and with 
the Serbs already under sanctions, the Muslims hoped they could achieve more. 

On January 8, the Germans hosted a Muslim-Croat meeting. The main 
issue was Neum. The Muslims were ready to recognize Croatian sovereignty 
over the road that passed through Neum if they could have the town. 
Administration of the European Union in Neum was also one of the solutions 
offered during the negotiations which was not implemented. Finally, the Croats 
offered the Muslims the Treaty of Cooperation, which was drawn on the joint 
Muslim-Croat declaration of September 14, 1993 (cessation of hostilities), but 
the Muslims refused. They asked to resolve the details in the dispute before 
signing such a treaty. The Muslims did not want to enter into some definite 
commitments and they kept all options open. They were focused on conquering 
territory in Central Bosnia from the Bosnian Croats, while putting the Serbs aside 
for the moment. There was no significant progress at that meeting, but it opened 
new possibilities for resolving the Muslim-Croat war - creation of one joint entity. 
Later, the United States delegate to the International Conference for the Former 
Yugoslavia, exploited this idea and successfully brokered the establishment of a 
Muslim-Croat Federation. But, at that moment the Muslims were still too 
confident and showed little or no will to cooperate. But, in early 1994, the Croats 
made a tactical move. 

On January 18, 1994, there was no special progress on the issues 
connected with Bosnia-Herzegovina, but Tudjman and Milosevic agreed to 


establish permanent offices of the Croatian and Serbian governments in 
Belgrade and Zagreb, respectively. Now the Muslims faced a possible Serbo- 
Croat alliance. There were already some signs of cooperation between Bosnian 
Croats in the surrounded Croatian pockets and Bosnian Serbs, 75 but if it was 
formalized the Muslims could be squeezed into living in the Tuzla and Zenica 
districts. The United States recognized the possible consequences for the 
Muslims immediately and in early 1994 started pressing Muslims and Croats to 
come to terms. Many observers called the reestablished Muslim-Croat alliance a 
"marriage of convenience," but it would be more appropriate to call it a "shotgun 

75 Strange alliances appeared on the field without knowledge of the central leaderships all the 
time. One such case of Muslim-Serb cooperation in the Mostar area was described in Owen's 
Balkan Odyssey on page 350. 



After the Muslim-Croat war, the humanitarian situation deteriorated quickly 
not only in Sarajevo, but also in Bosnia as a whole. No one maintained the 
"Diamond Route" or "Salvation Road" that was passing through the mountain 
ranges of Vran and Cvrsnica and further in Central Bosnia and soon they 
became useless. Besides that, both sides established numerous checkpoints, 
which additionally slowed the delivery of goods. Ethnic hatred escalated so 
much so, that on many occasions civilians tried to prevent the delivery of food to 
the other side, usually by blocking and looting the humanitarian convoys meant 
for their enemies. Apparently, the real winners in this war were the Serbs. 

The public and Congress's 76 pressure on the Clinton administration grew 
again in the latter part of 1993 and early 1994. The American representative at 
the International Conference for Former Yugoslavia, Charles Redman, got new 
instructions 77 on how to deal with the Bosnian crisis. The United States was 
horrified with the possibility of a humanitarian and military catastrophe that could 
hit the Bosnian Muslims, especially in the light of the news about a growing Serb- 

76 In January, Congress voted for lifting the arms embargo for Bosnian Muslims. Ibid., p.253. 

77 Ibid., p.251. 


Croat cooperation. 78 The delivery of weapons to the Bosnian Muslims was 
significantly reduced after the Muslim-Croat war broke out. The "containment" 
policy that prolonged the war, gave the Muslims the chance to achieve some 
territorial gains by military means, but could eventually fail. Rumors about 
weapons deliveries from Iran only increased the pressure on the administration. 
Therefore, the administration decided to press the Croats and the Muslims to 
renew their alliance. 

The idea of a joint Muslim-Croat entity was rather old, and it appeared for 
the first time in September 1993 when both sides signed the peace agreement 
and committed themselves to renew cooperation. But, at the same time the 
European Community and the United Nations' mediators were pursuing the idea 
of a union of three independent Bosnian republics, and logically the sides did not 
show too much interest in negotiating a joint entity with Redman and a separate 
entity with Owen and Stoltenberg at the same time. From September 1993, the 
Americans were pushing the sides to come to an agreement but made a little 
progress, until it became obvious in late December that even the EU "Action 
Plan" would fail. The United States applied additional pressure on the leadership 
of the Republic of Croatia by exposing the Croats to international criticism, 
because of their support to the Bosnian Croats. The Security Council of the 

78 Officially both sides were still at war and cooperation was on the local level only, where the 
Croats living in pockets (squeezed between the Muslims and the Serbs) paid for safe passage via 
the Serbian territory, in food or fuel. One Bosnian Franciscan on trial in The Hag obtained a good 
account on these issues. <> 
[Access November 11, 1998] 


United Nations was drafting a Resolution, which would condemn "the Croatian 
military intervention in Bosnia." 

In December of 1993 the leader of the Bosnian Croats, Mate Boban, was 
ousted, and on January 7, 1994 in Bonn, the Croats offered the Muslims the fully 
drafted treaty on Cooperation. But, the Muslims refused to accept this treaty, 
because they felt encouraged by Iranian weapons deliveries and showed no 
desire to stop fighting. When the Croats turned toward the Serbs and signed an 
agreement on establishing diplomatic offices on January 17, 1994, the United 
States immediately applied additional pressure via the United Nations Security 
Council. On February 3, the United Nations Security Council passed the 
Presidential Statement, which demanded "that the Republic of Croatia withdraw 
all elements of the Croatian Army, along with military equipment and fully respect 
the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina." It also 
expressed the UN's "readiness to consider other serious measures if the 
Republic of Croatia failed to put an immediate end to all forms of interference in 
the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina." In all probability, because the Croats 
showed their desire to cooperate in Bonn, the United States did not pass the 
Resolution, which was a stronger form of diplomatic communication, but passed 
the Presidential Statement. The Presidential Statement was more than a clear 
warning that the Croats had to make additional efforts and offer the Muslims 
more concessions if the agreement on cooperation was to be signed. 


After the market square bombing in Sarajevo on February 5, 1994 and the 
successful NATO ultimatum to the Bosnian Serbs, the Americans were even 
more determined to halt the Muslim-Croat war. On February 16, the American 
Ambassador to the Republic of Croatia, Peter Galbraith, proposed to the 
Croatian President the idea of a Federation between the Muslim and Croat 
entities. Above all, for the protection of the Bosnian Croats, the Muslim-Croat 
Federation was to establish a confederation with the Republic of Croatia. The 
idea was accepted and after a small amount of pressure on the Muslim side, 79 
the Americans summoned the Bosnian and the Croatian Foreign Ministers to 
Washington to negotiate the agreement on the Muslim-Croat Federation. In less 
than two weeks, Redman, Galbraith and the American Ambassador to Bosnia- 
Herzegovina, Victor Jakovich, brokered the Agreement of the Federation of 
Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Washington Agreement on the Federation of 
Bosnia and Herzegovina was signed on March 2, 1994. The final deal on the 
constitutional principle for Federation was reached in Vienna on March 13, 1994. 
On March 18, Presidents Tudjman, Izetbegovic, the new Bosnian Croat leader, 
Kresimir Zubak, and Prime Minister Silajdzic signed a draft of the constitution of 
the Muslim-Croat Federation, and Presidents Tudjman and Izetbegovic signed a 

79 Some preliminary United Nations reports claimed that the mortar shell might have been 
launched from the Muslim army side, and at that moment Muslim politicians became much more 
cooperative. David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1995), pp. 


letter of intent on the Confederation between the Republic of Croatia and the 
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

There were some changes in the first draft of the agreement. The 
Federation would consist of several Muslim (now called Bosniac 80 ) and Croat 
cantons, not incorporated in the Muslim and Croat Republics. The cantons 
would not have national, but geographical names. In Central Bosnia and the 
Neretva River Valley, there would be mixed Bosniac-Croat cantons. These two 
cantons would have a special ruling government with strict national parity. Other 
cantons would be predominantly Bosniac or Croat, but the districts in those 
cantons would have the right to lead cultural and educational policies depending 
on the wishes of the people that lived in those districts. The parties renewed 
their military alliance and expressed their intention to fight until all of the 
predominantly Bosniac and Croat territories in Bosnia and Herzegovina were 

Apparently, this was the weakest point in this treaty. After two years of 
"ethnic cleansing" it was not clear what the predominantly Bosniac and Croat 
territories were. If the Bosniacs and Croats had been able to liberate their ethnic 
territory, they would have done it one year earlier. On the other hand, the 
international community did not express their intent to roll back the Serbian 
territorial conquest. Soon, the Federal partners realized that the international 

80 The word Bosniacs refers to Bosnian Muslims only. This new/old name was probably chosen 
to stress their right to Bosnia and to avoid confusion with "Muslim" in the religious and national 


community would not even take into consideration their demands for more than 
51 per cent of the territory. But, even with the disputes resolved between the 
Bosniacs and the Croats, and the 51 per cent of territory that had been allocated 
to them before, the international community still was not able to make a peace 
agreement for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Apparently, there were some other 
disputable points in the Bosnian conflict other than territory still waiting to be 


The Bosniac-Croat Federation certainly made negotiation on the peace 
plan for Bosnia easier, because it was not necessary to determine a border 
between Bosniacs and Croats, only between the Serbian entity and the 
Federation. The Serbs refused the American offer to participate in the 
Federation, and their Parliament voted for independence of their Republic of 
Srpska on March 22, leaving no doubt what their intentions were. Apparently, 
having the Bosniac-Croat Federation established, the international community 
had to make a new peace plan for Bosnia. 

Four months of cease-fire expired in April, and the situation deteriorated 
again. The Serbs attacked the United Nations safe area in Gorazde. They 
realized that a peace solution could soon be found, and they wanted to have 
"clean" and contiguous territorial lines in Eastern Bosnia. On the other hand, the 

sense. The word Bosnians refers to all three Bosnian nationalities (Bosniacs, Bosnian Serbs, and 
Bosnian Croats). 


Serbs thought that this "demonstration of power" would soften the Bosniacs and 
they would be more cooperative. But they did not count on such a decisive 
reaction from the international community. On April 16, the NATO planes 
bombed Serbian positions, and the situation was calmed down. 

Successful Bosniac-Croat negotiations on the Federation led by American 
diplomats proved that the United Nations' and the European Union's cooperation 
in the Yugoslav crisis was not enough. Apparently, the United States and if 
possible Russia, should have been involved in the International Conference on 
the Former Yugoslavia from the beginning. But, that was not an attractive 
solution for the Americans. They were not ready to deal with all twelve European 
nations and they preferred a much closer circle. Any working group would have 
to contain British and French representatives, which could coordinate activities 
on the ground and in the United Nations Security Council. Germany was 
important as a link toward the Croats, Russia toward the Serbs. The idea was to 
establish a Contact Group mechanism similar to that which was used in 1977 
over Namibia. The representatives of the major European powers, the United 
States and Russia, as well as Owen and Stoltenberg met for the first time in 
London on April 26, 1994. Later, they traveled from capitol to capitol of the 
countries that were members of the Contact Group. 

During May of 1994, the Contact Group established its policy toward the 
Bosnian crisis. They accepted the division on the 51-49 per cent basis, and as a 
reward for the Serbs phasing out, lifting of the United Nations sanctions. The 


Contact Group developed its own map which was to be presented to all sides. 
Even the Russians did not object too much. The United States' representative 
turned down any possibility of imposing the Contact Group solution against the 
wishes of the parties. The situation was pretty much the same as before. But, 
from an outside perspective, this group bore much more credibility than the 
International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. On May 25, the Contact 
Group started meeting representatives of the Bosnian parties, presenting them 
its proposals (see Figure 4). 

The Contact Group lacked the determination to press the Bosnian parties 
to accept the plan. Rhetoric remained almost the same as in the International 
Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. The Group did not agree on the ideas of 
applying selective force on those that did not comply with their proposals. Their 
plan was offered "a la carte" for almost one year. The problem for the Group 
was that it continued to work on the principle of the least common denominator, 
and it could not bring fresh new ideas to the table. That was why the Group did 
not plan any additional measures against those parties who did not comply with 
the plan or rewards for those who accepted the plan. More or less everything 
stayed the same as in the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia. 

At first the Bosnian Serbs rejected the map accusing the Contact Group of 
constructing the map intentionally in a way that the Serbs had to reject it. Later, 
under strong pressure from Russia and Milosevic, they accepted the map, but 
refused the constitutional principles. They accepted the plan as a basis for 


further negotiations. Regarding sanctions, their position was - that the sanctions 
had to be lifted first and then they would offer peace. During August, the 
Bosnian Serbs even organized a referendum on that issue, but the result was 
expected - rejection. 

Contact Group Plan 



On basis of 2-1 
of Sarajevo 




Serb entity 







Figure 5 

Source: David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace 
and Company, 1995), pp.281 

In spite of all the humiliation the Group underwent from the Bosnian 
Serbs, the Contact Group did not respond. In effect, it only deepened the 
differences between Russians and Americans. Americans thought it was time 


for "lift and strike" while the Russians opposed that. Apparently, it was up to the 
parties on the ground to find the final military and political equilibrium that would 
create the necessary conditions for a peace plan. 

The biggest achievement of this Contact Group plan was the final break 
between Milosevic and the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs. Milosevic was tired 
of the sanctions, and considered the plan acceptable. He sealed the borders 
between Serbia-Montenegro and the Bosnian Serbs, leaving no doubt of his 
position on this issue. 

The Contact Group plan did not have any significant effect on the Bosniac- 
Croat relations. The Federal partners were technically allies, but their relations 
were still rather "cold." The war wounds were still fresh and there was little or no 
progress in the implementation of the Washington Agreement. Regarding the 
implementation of the Washington Agreement, interestingly, the soldiers were 
ahead of politicians. 


In the autumn and winter of 1994, the military situation around Bihac in 
Western Bosnia became rather complicated. The Bosnian Serb Army and the 
Croatian Serb Army tried to cut the enclave into halves and to erase that last 
large Muslim enclave in the contiguous Serbian territory from Croatia to Serbia. 
The survival of this enclave was of strategic importance not only to Bosnia, but 
also to Croatia. Its position could be compared with the giant stronghold gained 
by the airborne operation deep in Serb-held territory. The enclave was already 


exhausted with the constant warfare during the last three years and survived only 
because of the strong determination of its people in Bihac and the risky airlift 
from Croatia. Relations between HVO and ABIH were generally good in that 
area, because these relations were not a contested territory between Bosniacs 
and Croats. Relations between the two militaries were somewhat soured after 
the Commander of Croatian Forces in that area, General Santic, was kidnapped 
and executed by the Bosniacs Military Police. The Croatian Forces were much 
weaker and they did not open a second front. After all, both sides were under 
constant attack from the Serbian positions around Bihac. 

After the deterioration of the situation in the Bihac area, the late Croatian 
Minister of Defense, Gojko Susak, publicly announced a decision to intervene in 
the case of the fall of Bihac, "Bihac was of strategic importance for Republic of 
Croatia and there was no way to prevent us." Croatia's position was not 
definitive at that moment, because Croatia was in the middle of discussions 
about future defense cooperation with the United States. Susak and the Chief 
of the General Staff of the Croatian Army, General Bobetko, visited the United 
States on different occasions during the autumn of 1994, and they were 
"persuaded" not to open a new battlefield in Croatia while Bosnia was still 
boiling. In return the United States promised to act through the United Nations 
and NATO. 

The United States pressed Britain and France to accept the NATO air 
strikes against Bosnian and Croatian Serbs, because they were violating the 


United Nations Resolution by attacking the Safe Area of Bihac. Indeed, NATO 
attacked the airport of Udbina in the Serb-held part of Croatia, because of the 
violation of the no-fly zone over Bosnia. On the second occasion NATO attacked 
the position of Serbian SAM-2 and SAM-6 air defense. But British and French 
commanders of the United Nations troops in Bosnia, General Michel Rose and 
General Bernard de Lapresle, rapidly called off the air strikes infuriating 
Americans, Bosniacs, and Croats. 

Having the American action fail, Croatia got tacit approval to act in order 
to protect its own interests. The decision was made to act south of Bihac, in the 
mountain range of Dinara on the Croatian-Bosnian border, drawing significant 
Serbian forces from Bihac to the south. Deeper in Bosnian territory, HVO - the 
Bosnian Croat Army and ABIH - the Bosniac Armed Forces, acted together for 
the first time in the area of Kupres. For the sake of truth, it must be said that this 
was not a joint operation, but that Bosniacs and Croats just coordinated their 
efforts to a certain extent. As one HVO commander said, "At least we shoot in 
the same direction...." It was the beginning of a renewed alliance, and the 
beginning of an operation for the liberation of Croatia and a big chunk of Bosnian 
territory in the West of the country. 

In the beginning of 1995, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman announced 
his intention to cancel the mandate of the United Nations troops on Croatian 
territory, if there was no progress on reintegration of that territory by peaceful 
means. Trying to avoid further complications, the international community 


pressed Croatia not to start a new war. 81 The Croatian problem was that the 
United Nations' troops were supposed to secure the return of Croatian refuges to 
occupied territory, but during the three years of United Nations presence in 
Croatia not a single refugee returned to his home. With the help of the EU 
mediator in 1994, the Republic of Croatia and the Serbian rebels started talks 
about economic cooperation but there was no significant progress. Under 
International pressure, the Serbs accepted the opening of a major highway 
between Zagreb and Eastern Croatia, but on several occasions they used that 
highway for blackmail purposes by opening and closing it at will. Croatian 
patience did not last long. 

The situation in Bosnia was deteriorating too. On May 1, 1995, the official 
"New Year," the four-month cessation of hostilities in Bosnia ended too. 
Sarajevo was under mortar fire again. The Serbs were violating the United 
Nations Safe Area again and Bosniacs called for NATO air strikes. The Serbs 
even seized the heavy weapons from the United Nations secured stockpiles. 
After a bitter quarrel between America and the Secretary General of the United 
Nations, Buthros-Buthros Ghali, NATO attacked the Serbian positions around 
Sarajevo on May 24, and 26. The Serbs responded by taking United Nations' 
personnel as hostages. There was confusion among the chief powers involved 

81 On February 4, 1995 Croatian and American Defense Ministers, Susak and Perry, and CJCS 
General Shalikasvili met in Munich. "Perry told Susak that we [the United States] continue to feel 
that his government was making a mistake... General Shali warned him that the JCS 
assessment of the balances of forces was far more pessimistic than Zagreb's" Richard 
Holbrooke, To End a War (New York: Random House, Inc., 1998), p.62. 


in this crisis. Part of the British Prime Minister's cabinet wanted to pull their 
forces, while the French wanted to reinforce, and the Americans were looking for 
other options. The United States Government realized that it had to take more 
decisive steps to end the Bosnian war. 

Simultaneously, with the creation of Rapid Reaction Forces for 
reinforcement of UNPROFOR, NATO developed a secret operational plan "40- 
104" for withdrawal of the United Nations' troops from Bosnia. The United States 
could not keep an intermediate position any longer, and they had to engage their 
troops either in support of the withdrawal the United Nations troops or in the 
implementation (imposition) of peace in Bosnia. The decision in favor of the 
latter solution was probably made under pressure from Congress. Without a 
decision, President Clinton's administration would enter the campaign of 1996 
with empty hands in the area of foreign policy. Republican candidate Bob Dole 
had already called for a much more radical solution. The humanitarian 
catastrophe in Zepa and Srebrenica in the middle of July played into his hands, 
and the administration had to act more decisively. On July 21 , Defense Ministers 
of countries assisting with troops decided to defend Gorazde with all available 
means. The War escalated into every corner of Bosnia. 

On July 22, Presidents Tudjman and Izetbegovic met in Split, Croatia and 
signed a formal military alliance between the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia- 
Herzegovina. Croats just continued their action started in the winter of 1994 and 
entered the Serb-held "Krajina" from the rear. The operation started on August 


4, 1995. The Serbian mini-state of "Krajina" collapsed in less than four days. 
The siege of Bihac was broken and an even larger, predominantly Serbian 
region in Western Bosnia was left undefended and in danger. The balance of 
power in the region was completely changed. 

In late August of 1995, the Serbs bombed Sarajevo again. Heavy civilian 
casualties outraged the whole world and NATO responded by bombing Serbian 
positions. The Serbs were furious because of NATO attacks and their territorial 
losses as well. During September and October of 1995, the Croatian Forces (HV 
and HVO) together with the Bosniac forces on the flanks, pushed the Serbs 
toward their stronghold city of Banja Luka. A large piece of Bosnian territory on 
the West was under Croat-Bosniac control. In the meantime, the American 
Government launched new a diplomatic initiative, drawn on a "more realistic" 
approach and brokered a truce at the end of October of 1995. Everything was 
ready for Dayton. 


At the beginning of August of 1995, the United States Government 
reviewed 82 its policy toward Bosnia and created its own peace plan for the final 
settlement in Bosnia. The plan consisted of seven points: (1) a comprehensive 
peace settlement; (2) a three-way recognition among Bosnia, Croatia and 
Serbia-Montenegro; (3) the lifting of sanctions against Serbia-Montenegro if a 

82 Ibid., pp.73-74. 


settlement was reached and an American-backed program to equip and train the 
Federation forces; (4) reintegration of Eastern Slavonia into Croatia; (5) to stop 
offensive operations; (6) a reaffirmation of the Contact Group Plan; and (7) a 
regional economic recovery. The senior member of President Clinton's advisers 
visited Europe and Russia seeking support for the plan, while the Chief of the 
Department for European and Canadian Affairs, Richard Holbrooke, was to start 
all-out negotiations. 

The plan was welcomed in Europe and in Russia with some small 
objections on American military support to the Bosniac-Croat Federation. It 
should not surprise anyone, because the United States basically committed itself 
to engage in the implementation of the peace plan, which elated the Europeans, 
and promised to lift sanctions imposed on Serbia-Montenegro, which satisfied 
the Russians. 

Holbrooke was shuttling between capitols in the former Yugoslavian 
republics trying to persuade Presidents Tudjman, Milosevic, and Izetbegovic to 
accept the American plan as a basis for the overall settlement between the 
former Yugoslav republics. He found no opposition in Zagreb, which after the 
collapse of "Krajina" was in the best position for negotiations. The situation 
among the Bosniacs and the Serbs was different - they were divided as usual. 

Izetbegovic wanted to negotiate for a single country but he was ready to 
accept the importance of a Serbian autonomy. Prime Minister Silajdzic also 


wanted to negotiate a single multi-ethnic country 83 but with a much stronger 
central government. This division would cause a lot of problems and the West 
would be frustrated during the negotiations, because it would not be clear what 
the Bosniac's position was. 

After their initial rejection, the Bosnian Serbs were exposed to strong 
military and diplomatic pressure, and their Parliament decided to put their destiny 
in Milosevic's hands. They gave him Power of Attorney to represent their 
interests. It effectively meant that they accepted the negotiations, because 
Milosevic had already accepted the Contact Group Plan almost one year earlier. 

Holbrooke never tried to examine the position of the Bosnian Croats. In 
his book, he did not explain who would defend the interests of the Bosnian 
Croats, the Republic of Croatia or the Bosniacs. Entering the Federation with 
Bosnians, Bosnian Croats lost their political influence and that created a lot of 
frustration among them. 

At the end of August of 1995, Holbrooke got the consent of all parties to 
start negotiations. He still had to settle some staff details and to brief the 
Europeans and some important Islamic countries. With the help of NATO air 
strikes and several military defeats that the Serbs suffered in Western Bosnia, 
Holbrooke refined the most important provisions of the future peace agreement 
with Milosevic. The parties met first in Geneva on September 7, 1995 to confirm 

83 Explaining Silajdzic's position on that issue Holbrooke said, "...although he [Silajdzic] referred 
to the Croats with such animosity that I did not see how he could ever cooperate with them" Ibid. 


their readiness to negotiate on the American principles, and later in New York on 
September 26, the provision on a central government was agreed upon. In the 
beginning of October all sides signed the cease-fire and the situation was ripe for 
serious negotiations. 

Negotiations began in Dayton almost one month later. There were 
many issues on the table to negotiate: Eastern Slavonia, the Bosniac-Croat 
Federation, a constitutional framework, elections, a three-person presidency, a 
Bosnian Central Assembly, freedom of movement and the right of refugees to 
return to their homes, compliance with the International War Crimes Tribunal, 
and an International Police Force. Above all, the most difficult task to negotiate 
was determining the internal borders between the Serbs and Bosniac-Croat 

The negotiations over the Federation issue were handed over to German 
diplomat Michael Steiner, who continued working with Bosniac and Croat 
representatives in a working group. Milosevic and Tudjman negotiated directly 
over Eastern Slavonia, but Milosevic insisted that the final agreement had to be 
made on the field. During the next few days the Chief of President Tudjman's 
office negotiated the so-called Erdut Agreement on the reintegration of Eastern 
Slavonia into the Republic of Croatia. Milosevic was promised the phasing out 
and lifting of sanctions after the initiation of an agreement. Negotiations 
continued over the next twenty days but in several working groups. Most of the 
problems were resolved in the first fifteen days, but when negotiators turned to 


the maps it became clear just how large a gap still existed between all sides. 
The crucial points were: Sarajevo, the Brcko and Posavina Corridor, Gorazde, 
the Posavina pocket, Srebrenica and Zepa, and Bosanski Novi. There were 
many other disputed areas but those were secondary. 

The Dayton Agreement Map 




Figure 6 

Source: "Operation Joint Endeavor-Maps," 
< > [Access December 

During the last week of negotiations, there was significant progress 
achieved on the majority of issues and it was necessary to just close the deal on 
the maps. Bosnia-Herzegovina would be a single country with two entities, the 


Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bosniac-Croat). 
There would be a central government with limited authority and regional 
governments in the Federation and the Serbian Republic. Both entities would 
keep their own military forces, while the Federation Forces would consist of two 
components HVO and ABIH and their forces could be merged above the brigade 

On November 20, during one negotiation-marathon, Silajdzic and 
Milosevic cut the final deal. They negotiated only with Holbrooke present in the 
room. Milosevic ceded to the Bosniacs control over the whole of Sarajevo, and 
in return, to preserve the "sacred ratio" 51-49, Silajdzic ceded to the Serbs the 
land that the Croatian troops conquered during their last offensive 84 in 
September of 1995. The Croats felt as though they had been stabbed in the 
back by the Bosniacs and refused the agreement. Then Holbrooke proposed a 
redistribution of the "concessions" to the Serbs, to both the Bosniac and the 
Croat sides, but surprisingly Izetbegovic refused it. It was time use the heavy 

President Clinton was supposed call Izetbegovic and Tudjman to apply 
pressure to both sides, the Croats and the Bosniacs, to redistribute the 
"concessions" among themselves, but National Security Adviser Anthony Lake 
opposed the call to Izetbegovic. During the conversation with President Clinton, 
President Tudjman promised that the Croats would give up 3/4 of the land 


needed to close the deal. It was up to Izetbegovic to offer the rest, but he 
refused. Only one per cent of Bosnian land stood between peace and war, but 
Izetbegovic was firm. Most importantly, this was not land under Bosniac control. 
Christopher and Holbrooke pressed Izetbegovic, but in return he was asking for 
the city of Brcko which was not even an issue before this. 

His indecisiveness was threatening to destroy one more agreement. 
Finally, President Tudjman convinced Milosevic to accept the independent 
arbitration on the Brcko issue within one year and Izetbegovic accepted it. The 
parties unofficially signed (initialed) the Dayton Peace Agreement 85 of November 
21, 1995 (see Figure 6). The tough and painful process of its implementation on 
the ground has yet to be done. 


The division of labor in the implementation process was done during the 
London Peace Implementation Conference 86 held on December 8-9, 1995. The 
responsibility for the implementation of the military portion of the Agreement was 
transferred to NATO and partly to OSCE (Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe), while the civilian part of the implementation was 
transferred to the EU and partly to OSCE. The Agreement was officially signed 

84 For more details see and dramatic moments on November 20 see Ibid. pp. 299-300. 

85 <> [Access November 15, 1998]. 

86 <> [Access November 15, 1998]. 


in Paris on December 15, 1995 and its implementation started on December 20, 

A special representative of the United States government carried out the 
part of the Agreement that referred to the United States support of the Army of 
the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Other countries (mostly Islamic) that 
wanted to take part in this program donated money and weapons for the 
Federation Forces. The Europeans did not want to be involved in this part of the 
agreement, and they committed themselves to helping the economic 
reconstruction of the Bosnian economy instead. 

The implementation of the military portion of the Dayton Agreement on 
the field went well, 87 but the negotiations on Sub-Regional Arms Control in 
Vienna (the reduction of military potentials) led by the permanent representative 
of the OSCE Chairman 88 lasted almost six months. The negotiations got stuck 
because the Bosniac side, as the weakest side in the subregion insisted on the 
least possible weapons quotas which infuriated the Serbs who still had the 
largest stock-piles of weapons from the former Yugoslav Army. The agreement 
of Sub-Regional Arms Control was signed in Florence on June 16, 1996 (after 
the due date) and its implementation was more or less successful. 

87 The code-name of that largest NATO operation in its history was Joint Endeavor. For more 
details see <> [Access November 15, 1998]. 

88 Norwegian General Kai Eide almost blew up negotiations in the very beginning by giving the 
Croatian and Bosnian notification of weapons to the Serbs who were late in preparing their data. 


Most of the problems during the beginning of implementation were in the 
political area of the Agreement on both levels (entity and state). From the 
beginning of implementation it was obvious that the present authorities in the 
Republic of Srpska did not support the agreement, and they would try to delay its 
implementation. In the end, they did not negotiate this agreement, and accepted 
it only under the strong pressure of Milosevic. 

The biggest concern of the international community was the situation in 
the Bosniac-Croat Federation. The shaky confidence between the Federal 
partners almost disappeared in Dayton after Silajdzic had exchanged "the 
Croatian territory" with the Serbs. There were numerous incidents on the field 
between the Bosniacs and Croats. During the first year of implementation, there 
was no significant progress in returning refugees to their homes. 89 The 
complicated situation in Mostar got worse after the unauthorized changes of 
Protocol on Mostar signed in Dayton by the European Union administrator Hans 

There were no significant problems on the military level of implementation 
of the Agreement in the Bosniac-Croat Federation in the field, but the problems 
arose with the implementation of the American-led program, "Train and Equip." 
The Croatian side objected to the commencement of implementation of the 
program before all political relations between the Federation and State were 

89 The biggest problems were in Central Bosnia (Bugojno, Travnik, Jajce, etc.) and Herzegovina 
(Mostar, Stolac) where the strongest fighting was between Bosniacs and Croats during the war of 


clarified. The American military instructors began combat training of the Federal 
troops even before the chain of command was defined and other political-military 
problems were resolved. 90 The Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina had federal 
troops before the Federal Ministry of Defense did, and before it became clear 
who was Commander-in-Chief of its troops (Bosnian civil-military relations were 
and still are extremely complicated). 

There were significant problems during the definition of the Federal Law 
on Defense. The Bosniac side wanted to achieve maximum integration 
(unification) of forces in all areas that were not defined by the Agreement, while 
the Croatian side preferred maximum independence. There were also problems 
during the definition of the structure of the Federal forces, as well as the location 
of the training center, the distribution of donated weapons, and so forth. In spite 
of the many ill-defined relations between the two components of Federal forces, 
the United States government pushed the sides to carry out the "Train and 
Equip" program, because the situation in Bosnia was not stable and they wanted 
to create Federal forces that could oppose a possible Serbian attack. 

Relations on the political level were even worse. It was necessary to 
define the Federal Constitution and other important laws, but the pattern of 
relations between the Federal partners was the same. For everything that was 

1993/94. Bosniacs and Croats were allies, and if they could not live together, the returning of 
refugees in the Republic of Srpska would be even harder. 

90 The training of Federal troops started before national security strategy and national military 
strategies were brought. It was one of the typical Bosnian problems, the troops were created, but 
their enemy was not defined. 


not defined by the Dayton Agreement, both of the Federal partners had different 
opinions and in general the Bosniac side wanted centralization as much as 
possible, while the Croats wanted maximum decentralization and autonomy. 
The political differences that had existed before the Washington Agreement 
remained the same and apparently the partners did not believe each other. The 
Federal Parliament was a big market where parties very often blocked each 
other's laws because one or the other delayed to implement some other 
agreements. Such behavior caused a lot of frustration on the side of the 
international community. The debates in Parliament were so severe that it was 
almost impossible to pass any of thousands of laws necessary. In spite of 
arbitrations accepted by both sides, there was a little or no progress achieved. 

A similar situation existed on the state level. The State Parliament could 
not pass the necessary laws needed for the normal functioning of state. 
Therefore, during several meetings of the Peace Implementation Council, the 
role of High Representative of the international community was strengthened and 
now he could impose any decision necessary for the functioning of the country 
and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina if both the Federal and the country 
Parliament could not pass it. Some of his decisions were rather controversial 
and it caused a lot of frustration among domestic politicians in Bosnia, who now 
perceived him as a gubernator of the international community and Bosnia as its 




The problem of poor Bosniac (Muslim)-Croat relations has remained 
almost unchanged since the initiation of the Washington Agreement in February 
of 1994. Apparently, both sides did not change their political position as far as 
the administrative organization of Bosnia-Herzegovina was concerned. They 
entered the war with different political goals and a different picture of Bosnia 
which they fought for. 

The Bosnian Croats, afraid of assimilation, prefer decentralization and, if 
possible, organization of districts on ethnic principles, which they think could 
assure their survival. They could control the basic institutions in these districts 
such as the schools or the police force. 

The Bosniacs are pushing for greater unification at all levels (Federation 
and country) and they are even challenging the provisions of the Dayton 
Agreement that would prevent that. The Bosniac leadership still remembers a 
unitary Bosnia from Tito's time, and the key position that the Muslim nation held 
then. It will take one whole generation of young Bosniacs to grow up in a divided 
Bosnia to get used to the new position of their people. They have to get used to 
a new situation in which the rules of behavior made in Sarajevo will not be 
automatically applied to every corner of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Croats, who 
do not have exclusive control over their parts of Bosnia, consider the 
decentralization to be the key issue of Bosniac-Croat relations in the future. 


This issue existed before the war, but it was not stressed because of a 
much more serious threat from the Serbian side. The international community 
(the European Community) opened the issue of administrative-territorial 
organization of Bosnia-Herzegovina trying to appease the Serbs, but it only 
intensified the rift between the Croats and the Muslims. Later, every subsequent 
plan reflected the indulgence of the international community toward the Serbs, 
convincing the Croats and the Muslims that aggression was not to be punished 
and its was worthwhile. 

The situation became extremely chaotic with the half-hearted American 
involvement in the Yugoslav crisis. Occasionally the same messages were 
received by all sides in the Yugoslav crisis from both the European Union and 
the United States, but mostly the messages were completely different. Such 
chaotic diplomacy prolonged the war and affected Muslim-Croat relations in the 
worst possible way. A large portion of the responsibility for the Muslim-Croat war 
lays with the international community and its inconsistent policy. 91 

The introduction of the Containment Policy was one of the lowest points of 
international diplomacy during the Yugoslav crisis. It showed that the policy of 
the international community toward the Yugoslav crisis was only a set of half- 
hearted, inconsistent decisions. 

91 Figure 7 is a graphic presentation of the wavering policy of the International Community. 


Wavering Policy Of The International Community 





— j"' 



--.... i 





/ London 

/ Conference 


The UN membership of" 
Bosnia, Croatia and 

of Croatia 

The Dayton 

Bosniac-Croat j 
March 2, 1994 j 


Muslim-Croat ; 
Sept. 14, 1993 j 



The Contact Group Plan 

4 TheEU 
Action Plan 


^ A Union of 
*\Three Republic 


Vance-Owen Plan 


Cutileiro Plan 

Of Serbia 

The EC Sanctions 

Badinter Commission 


The UN Arm Embargo 
Supporf to unityof Yugoslavia^ 

Neutral Axis 
Figure 7 

Pro - Serb 


Containment could have made sense if it were followed up by the lifting of 
the arms embargo on all sides of the conflict. In that case, all sides could find 
internal military and political equilibrium in Bosnia and within the whole region. 

Muslims and Croats cannot be blamed for taking so much time to renew 
their alliance. When their conflict escalated, the international community led a 
dual-track negotiation that should have resolved the conflict. On the one side, 
the EC and the United Nations were negotiating a comprehensive solution by 
backing the partition, while the United States was trying, half-heartedly, to 
resolve the Muslim-Croat Federation issue, which was in effect in total opposition 
to the European partition policy (a Union of three Republics, the European Union 
Action Plan, and the Contact Group Plan). Such a dual approach affected the 
behavior of the Muslims and Croats. As long as the United States kept a low 
profile in all European attempts to resolve the crisis, the Muslims and the Croats 
were more inclined to accept the partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina. After the 
United States took a more determined course, both sides changed their policy to 
that of the United States and accepted the creation of a joint Bosniac-Croat 

The whole negotiation process, led under the auspices of the International 
Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, revealed the weakness of diplomacy 
without muscle. Without the United States embarking on their policy, the 
Europeans did not have the necessary (credible) force to push the sides involved 
in the conflict over the threshold of reaching any agreement. The sides in the 


conflict realized that they could play games with second-rate (European) powers 
without any consequences. Someone always managed to avoid an agreement 
for their own reasons. The Europeans lacked the force that would make 
implementation of any peace plan possible. This automatically meant that every 
plan they approved had a zero credibility rating in the eyes of the warring sides. 

Although, it was much easier to negotiate after the Washington 
Agreement, the situation was still not ripe enough for a comprehensive 
settlement. This conflict lacked the strategic importance that would make the 
Clinton administration engage fully in resolving it. The situation changed when 
the conflict threatened the United States' relations with NATO allies. It also 
changed when pressure from both public and political opponents grew to the 
point when it might affect the results of the next election. That final push shifted 
the United States into full engagement in the Bosnian conflict. 

The way in which the European Union managed the Yugoslav crisis 
proved to be a total disaster in the implementation of its Common Foreign and 
Security Policy. It became obvious that Europe was still too divided to lead a 
common policy. Their decision-making process was a continuous "pulling and 
pushing" which swayed their policy from one extreme to another. This alienated 
the parties in the conflict and Europe, as a mediator, lost its credibility. Did 
Europe and the other parties involved in the conflict learn anything from this 
crisis? Only time will tell. 




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